HELLO BABY, GOOD­BYE DOG­GIE?

Not true. You can cope with a new­born and a beloved pet suc­cess­fully – you’ll just have to make life­style changes. FE­LI­CIA WONG and NIKKI FUNG seek guid­ance from doc­tors and mums.

Young Parents (Singapore) - - Contents -

Not true. You can cope with a new­born and a beloved pet suc­cess­fully – you’ll just have to make life­style changes.

Can you keep your dog af­ter your new baby comes along? When Jamie Wee found out that she was preg­nant, her fam­ily had con­cerns about her keep­ing her mal­tese.

De­spite her well-mean­ing rel­a­tives’ con­cerns about hy­giene and safety, the 40-year-old es­tate man­ager de­cided to keep her then seven-year-old furkid.

“We went ahead as we trusted our dog and we felt that we would be able to han­dle it,” she says.

Here, Young Par­ents looks at the com­mon is­sues and dilem­mas you’ll face when you jug­gle a new­born and a beloved pet.

Is it safe?

Dr Natalie Ep­ton, spe­cial­ist pae­di­a­tri­cian and neona­tol­o­gist at the SBCC Baby & Child Clinic at Mount El­iz­a­beth Cen­tre, sets the record straight: New­borns and pets can live un­der one roof, but there are pre­cau­tions you should take.

For in­stance, it’s best to not let the dog lick your lit­tle one’s face dur­ing the first few months, as bac­te­ria in its saliva is likely to ex­pose Baby to the risk of in­fec­tion.

If they share an out­door space, Dr Ep­ton rec­om­mends check­ing the gar­den for dog fae­ces be­fore al­low­ing your baby to crawl around the area, as he may put it in his mouth.

“Al­though he is un­likely to con­tract bac­te­rial in­fec­tion from the dog,” she says, “he may pick up worms, so talk to your vet about reg­u­larly de­worm­ing your dog.”

What about al­ler­gies?

But what about pet fur, which is linked to al­ler­gies?

Michelle Foo, who kept her four-yearold mon­grel, Kiki, af­ter her son, Erik, was born last year, isn’t overly con­cerned.

“We weren’t wor­ried about al­ler­gies be­cause Kiki is a lo­cal street dog with short, thick fur,” says the 32-yearold copy­writer.

Dr Ep­ton cites stud­ies that show that hav­ing your in­fant live with a pet can re­duce the num­ber of res­pi­ra­tory tract and ear in­fec­tions within the first year of his life, and that early ex­po­sure to an­i­mal fur (of dogs more so than cats) may help to re­duce the like­li­hood of de­vel­op­ing al­ler­gies.

How­ever, that ben­efit doesn’t trans­late to older chil­dren who al­ready have a ten­dency to­wards al­ler­gies.

“If you don’t cur­rently have a dog, don’t go out and buy one just so that your baby will have fewer ear in­fec­tions. But if you do have a dog, don’t worry too much about the po­ten­tial for dis­eases to spread to your baby,” she ex­plains.

Can you make time for both?

Health is­sues aside, your big­gest prob­lem with jug­gling a new­born and a pet might well be baby envy.

Dogs are crea­tures of habit, says Dr Brian Loon, prin­ci­pal ve­teri­nary sur­geon at Am­ber Vet. They eas­ily get jeal­ous, anx­ious, ner­vous or ag­gres­sive to­wards new mem­bers of the fam­ily if they’re not in­tro­duced to them grad­u­ally or pos­i­tively.

Sud­den changes in your pet’s daily rou­tine that dras­ti­cally re­duce the time spent to­gether can also cause de­pres­sion, anx­i­ety and mis­be­haviour.

Jamie no­ticed signs of jeal­ousy in her dog Tippy, when her first son was born.

“It was hard to spend time with Tippy af­ter my baby was born. I felt guilty about ne­glect­ing my dog but it couldn’t be helped,” she says.

Tippy would seek at­ten­tion by pee­ing ev­ery­where, in­stead of on news­pa­pers as he was trained to.

“I think he was jeal­ous that we were spend­ing so much time with our baby,” Jamie says.

The so­lu­tion, Dr Loon says, is to spend time with your pet with­out Baby.

This will en­cour­age bond­ing and pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ences, and pre­vent it from de­vel­op­ing any fears of aban­don­ment, he ex­plains.

In Michelle’s case, that meant mak­ing use of nap time. “When our baby Erik slept, we would play with Kiki; when Erik was awake, we would try to get Kiki to play with us and Baby,” she re­calls.

This worked well, as Michelle found that “it wasn’t hard to find time for both of them be­cause ba­bies sleep a lot.”

Can they play to­gether?

You should never leave a baby to­gether with the pet in same room with­out su­per­vi­sion by a com­pe­tent adult, Dr Loon says.

Jamie, who wel­comed her sec­ond baby, Jarel, last year, is al­ways mind­ful of that.

“Even though Tippy is now older at 15 years old and not as ac­tive, we are still hes­i­tant about leav­ing our baby alone with our dog,” she con­fesses.

In fact, un­til you are sure of your dog’s sen­ti­ments, Dr Loon rec­om­mends hav­ing two adults present in the be­gin­ning – one to watch Baby, and another to su­per­vise the pet in case it has to be quickly, but calmly, taken away.

Keep an eye on their in­ter­ac­tion. “Ex­pect your baby to be heavy-handed and ex­ces­sively rough,” Dr Ep­ton says.

That was what hap­pened at Michelle’s house­hold. “Kiki used to be very scared of Erik be­cause he kept try­ing to grab her to play,” she says.

But Michelle knows that the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the boy and dog is noth­ing but lov­ing.

“We scolded him when­ever he was play­ing rough. Now, Kiki is a lot more com­fort­able with Erik and she has stopped run­ning away from him.”

Dr Ep­ton warns that many dog bites are caused by overly en­thu­si­as­tic tail-pulling. If the an­i­mal is both­ered enough to bite or scratch, she ad­vises tak­ing Baby to a doc­tor for first aid and to as­sess whether an­tibi­otics are needed.

“Dog and cat bites are dif­fer­ent from hu­man bites, and con­tain many bac­te­ria,” she ex­plains.

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