|A new baby is very exciting! However, the changes can cause great anxiety and distress in pets. Pet parents must be educated on preparing their pet for the baby, the importance of continued attention and affection, as well as how to encourage a bond to form between the baby and fur baby, so they can coexist happily and safely.|
The problem with a new baby - from a fur baby perspective!
The arrival of a baby is a busy time and pet parents have their hands full with settling, feeding, nappy changing, bathing and cuddling the new addition. Fur babies can feel left out! Pet parents can often feel anxious about bringing a newborn home and pets can sense this. This can make pets feel anxious and unsure about the situation, and will link this negative feeling back to the baby. In addition, walks and meals may be missed or at an unusual time and new smells and sounds can cause anxiety and fear. This may lead to anxiety based behaviours such as house-soiling, destruction or vocalising, possessive displays and in very rare cases, aggression.
It is important that pets understand the boundaries and have established behaviours with reliable responses. Dogs need to understand basic commands 'come', 'sit', 'bed' on cue, and cats need to know the boundaries for adventure, such as, are they allowed to jump on the kitchen bench? All desired behaviour should be reinforced. Having these basics down pat means that pets can be easily controlled and involved in all things baby, so they too can enjoy this exciting time!
Before the baby arrives
With many months to prepare, pet parents can gradually introduce and adjust their pet to all the new baby things, so it isn't a shock the day the baby comes. Pets must be rewarded for appropriate behaviour with treats, a favourite game or a rub on the belly! Here are some starting tips:
It's a boy! It's a girl!
The aim for pet parents is to teach the pet that good things happen with the baby around, so treats and toys must be at the ready at all times. Here are a few tips for whenthe baby comes home:
Quality time without the baby
Encourage pet parents to set time aside for one-on-one quality time with their pet, playing, grooming, patting and cuddling. This will prevent unwanted behaviours that result from a lack of attention and will provide mental and emotional stimulation. If pet parents are worried about not providing enough exercise, a dog walker a few times a week could take some of the pressure off.
The baby is starting to walk and crawl!
As the baby grows, they will recognise the pet and want to play. All play must be supervised, as rapid arm and leg movements, poking and tail pulling can be distressing for the pet. Children should be taught from an early age how to interact nicely with pets, and a quiet, child-free zone for the pet to escape to must be provided, to prevent other behaviours, such as biting, to make the child go away.
For unwanted behaviour, advise pet parents to seek specialist behavioural advice as soon as possible. Talk to pet parents about using pheromones and homeopathic remedies which help some animals. Depending on the age of the pet, underlying conditions, such as arthritis, could be a complicating issue so make sure pets are checked out and treated/managed appropriately.
A reminder about zoonotic disease!
It is important to remind pet parents about the risk of zoonotic diseases to their family. A zoonotic disease is one which can be passed from animals to humans, and includes parasites (e.g. roundworm and tapeworm) and the infections parasites carry (e.g. bacteria such as Rickettsia or Bartonella transmitted by fleas). Children are most at risk as they are often in closest contact with pets and the outside environment which can be contaminated with worm eggs from the poo of infected animals. To minimise the risk to families, all pets in the household must be on regular parasite prevention, such as Advocate monthly, which protects against fleas and worms, or Drontal every three months, which controls intestinal worms. Additionally, everyone must wash their hands after play and before eating, sandpits need to be covered to prevent animals from using them as a toilet, and poo should be removed from the backyard regularly.
|Article written by Bayer Animal Health|