BY RICK VOAKES, MD
What Pets are Safe for Kids?
There are many diseases that can be transmitted to children from animals, and some are serious, even life-threatening, such as rabies, Clostridium, MRSA, and Lyme disease (through ticks they might carry). Is it safe for kids to be around animals?
Most families have pets of some kind, with dogs and cats at the top of the list. These are the most recommended pets because disease transmission is minimal, especially if the animals are over 6 months old, and have been vaccinated for rabies. Kittens and puppies in the first 6 months are more likely to carry disease, and are more likely to bite and scratch a child handling the animal. Most cases of cat-scratch disease are from handling a small kitten. If you get a puppy or kitten for your child, keep exposure to a minimum during the first 6 months. The safest would be to get a dog or cat that is already over 6 months old.
© RICK VOAKES 2021
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has great information about pets and any diseases that they can carry to children. Click here:
Pit bulls and other dogs bred for "protection" are not recommended for children since children and even adults have been mauled or killed in attacks. We all know families with a pit bull who plays well with the children, but it only takes one incident when the animal has a bad day, is caught off guard, or perceives a threat, to result in a tragedy.
Fish are another popular pet, with very little chance of disease exposure for children. They can be a beginner pet for teaching children how to care for animals, since they have minimal maintenance. A more motivated child could then learn how to care for a hamster, parakeet or tame rabbit.
Wild rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, and other animals from the wild are not considered safe pets since they could carry several dangerous diseases, and would be more likely to bite a handler. Other non-recommended pets include: reptiles, amphibians, monkeys, hermit crabs, prairie dogs, and other exotic pets.
Even dogs and cats can carry serious diseases such as toxoplasmosis and leptospirosis. And their normal germs, such as mouth bacteria, can cause serious infections in children if bitten or scratched. Prompt attention to children's animal bites is important, and it is also good to teach children to wash hands after handling a pet. Most dog and cat worms are not transmitted to humans, but some types could be transmitted through their feces, for example, round worms.
Dogs and cats can be treated for fleas and ticks to virtually eliminate the chance of diseases carried by those pests (Lyme disease, plague, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and many others).