Published in the March 29 – April 11, 2017 issue of Morgan Hill Life

By Dr. Jeanne Arcay-Haggerty

Dr. Jeanne Haggerty-Arcay

Puppies and babies make an adorable duo. But there are also a few things you should keep in mind to keep it a safe combination.

Puppy Behavior: Puppies are playful by nature. They roll, scratch, jump and are mouthy. They are not trying to hurt anyone but to a small child it can not only be intimidating but also dangerous. Carefully monitor your puppy and child when they are together. This will ensure that their interactions are positive.

A rambunctious puppy can be very scary to a small child and can create fear that is very difficult to reverse. Children who interact with a very playful and feisty puppy (especially larger puppies) often develop a fear of dogs, even though there may be absolutely no malintent.

In addition, jumping, scratching and biting can be dangerous. It is not difficult to knock over a small and unstable child who has just learned to walk. A child’s eye is easily scratched during play.

Small Child Behavior: Babies, toddlers and small children are curious by nature. There’s nothing more intriguing than a moving stuffed animal that responds to you … and that’s exactly what a puppy is to them. They do not have a sense of causing pain or annoyance. They are just trying to explore this fluffy creature that jumps, plays and makes funny noises. It’s a child’s best toy.

But the means in which a child may explore is not always pleasing to a dog. Pulling the tail and ears. Poking the eyes. Getting up close and personal to the dog’s face. These are all things that can cause a dog or puppy to bite. Even the best of dogs will only tolerate so much stimuli and a small child does not have a sense of what they are doing to the puppy.

Deworming: Puppies in particular, can carry parasites that can be transmitted to humans. Babies and small children are at the highest risk because they do not have fully developed immune systems. In addition, the parasites are spread via fecal-oral route. Eggs are transmitted through feces, contaminated surfaces are touched and dirty hands go in the mouth. These parasites can migrate to the intestines, the eyes, the skin or the brain, causing serious disease in children. No matter how hard we try as parents, kids just put their dirty hands in their mouths.

The best way to avoid disease in children is to first train your puppy to go to the bathroom in a designated area. Having your puppy or dog do its business on the grass is asking for trouble. You are essentially having your child play in the dog’s bathroom. Even after you clean up stool, parasite eggs will remain in the grass, causing potential hazard.
In addition, talk to your veterinarian about ensuring that your puppy has been properly dewormed. Puppies are more prone to having infections from parasites than adult dogs and more rigorous deworming schedules are needed.

Raw Diets: Raw diets pose significant health hazards, especially to small children and babies. The immature immune system of the puppy and the small child puts them both at an increased risk for developing infectious diseases such as salmonella and campylobacter to name a few. These bacteria are transmitted through licking of the child’s face, contaminated food/water bowls, dog toys and other household surfaces that become contaminated from the dog’s mouth.

Toys: Most small toys that are too small for puppies are also hazardous for small children. Keep toys large and if they start to become chewed up, throw them away immediately.
Puppies and kids are a great combination but monitor their interactions closely to ensure that they develop a safe and healthy relationship. If you cannot be there to monitor them, do not feel guilty about putting the puppy in the crate or the baby in the playpen. Make sure that the puppy is free from infectious diseases to help maintain a healthy environment for both your dog and your child.

Dr. Jeanne Haggerty-Arcay received her undergraduate degrees in biology, biochemistry and Spanish from the College of Notre Dame, Belmont. She graduated from U.C. Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. She enjoys spending time with her husband and three young children.