A new bundle of joy is about to join the family, and you couldn’t be more excited! However, those who have been parents to fur-babies prior to their pregnancy may experience some anxiety.
Introducing your baby to your pet can be stressful – you are not sure how they will react, if the baby might cry or if your nervousness will stress out your pet.
Mopani Pharmacy spoke with Dr Christo Nortje, a local veterinarian from the Van Wijk Street Animal Hospital, on how to prepare your pet for the arrival of your baby.
“You can send your dog on an obedience training course, to learn now or at least to refresh what was taught in puppyhood if it was done already”, Dr Christo explained.
“Both cats and dogs need time to adjust to changes in the home. Prepare the nursery well in advance and supervise your pets when they enter the new room to adjust to the change in odours and objects”, he said.
This would also be a great time to tell your dog “no”, to let them know that these stuffed toys are not for them to play with.
“Once your dog has mastered basic commands, you can practice doing baby related activities. You can play a crying sound on your phone and pretend to sooth a baby doll. Instruct your dog to sit and stay. Practice positive reinforcement with treats for remaining in position”, said Dr Christo.
Just after birth
“If there is a day or two between the birth and bringing the baby home, you can bring a baby blanket or baby-grow the baby wore, for your pet to smell. This will help familiarise them with the new scent”, he said.
Once the baby is brought home
“Give your dog a few days to adjust to the sight, sound and smell of your baby, from a distance. After a few days, let your dog sniff the baby while remaining on leash, if your dog is used to it. Pet and praise your pup as they sniff. Ideally you will have equipped your dog to adapt easily, but take precautions – especially in the first few weeks,” he explained.
“Once your dog is used to the baby’s smell, let them sniff, off-leash. Supervise every interaction and be prepared to prevent unpredictable behaviour, should your baby suddenly scream or kick,” he continued.
“Cats are sensitive. When you, as the mommy, come home, greet your cat in a quiet room without interruptions. Don’t let anyone else in the room before you have had a chance to reconnect. Keep your cat’s routine as it was before”, he said.
“Your pets, should not associate the presence of the baby with a lack of attention or affection. If you are busy with the baby, let your partner play with them, or vice versa. If you are ready to introduce them, let them approach you, rather than forcing the interaction”, Dr Christo recommended.
“If the interaction is too much for your cat, confine them to a safe room. Your dog will show distress by tucking their tail between their legs or being vocal with growls or barking. In either of these events, you may need to delay their meeting with a day or two, until they have gotten more comfortable around the new baby”, he concluded.
The cat and the baby crib
“If it’s within reach or possible, your cat will jump into a crib. Don’t allow your cat to enter the nursery unattended. New born infants cannot roll over or even lift their heads, so an affectionate cat that cuddles up close to your baby’s face could make it hard to breathe. Always keep the nursery door closed when the baby is napping. This precaution will also keep the cat from urinating in the crib – something she might try if she is overly stressed”, said Dr Christo.
Once the baby is a bit older
“Continue supervising interactions between your baby and pet, even if your pet is not aggressive. Teach your toddler from the very start that they should under no circumstances; bother pets when they are eating, pull their hair or tails, or hit them. Remember that, toddlers learn by copying their parents. Do not discipline a dog in front of an infant”, Dr Christo warns.
“Pets are not to be used as a riding horse! Most cases where an infant was bitten, occurred when a baby played too hard with an old pet who then retaliated with a bite as a reaction to arthritic pain.”
There are no cats or dogs that won’t cause allergy or asthma. The interesting fact is that it’s not the hair, but rather the proteins in the saliva on the hair that causes dog or cat allergies. By obtaining a pet like hairless cats or cat and dog breeds that shed less hair, one will limit the load of allergens the house. So, do your research before getting a pet if you are known to be allergic to dogs or cats” he explained.
It is also advisable to consult your doctor and pharmacist on how to manage your allergies, before bringing a new pet home. You may also consider fostering a pet or having someone else’s pet stay with you for a short while before committing to giving one a forever home.
Obviously, with a new baby in the home, one will want to keep everything as clean as possible. “You can bathe your dog once a week with a hypoallergenic or non-medicated shampoo. Brushing your pets regularly and daily vacuuming of the house with a vacuum cleaner with a water-type filter to trap dust, dirt and fur seems to work the best”, Dr Christo explained.
Deworming and vaccination?
“Pets should be vaccinated yearly and dewormed every three months if sharing a household with an infant or child”, said Dr Christo.
Remember to make use of vet-approved treatments to keep ticks and fleas away! It is also important that you have yourself and your child dewormed every three months to avoid any cross-contamination.
For all of your pet check-ups, de-worming, vaccines and treatment needs, you can book an appointment at the Van Wijkstreet Animal Hospital at 2 Giraffe street, Nelspruit, on 013 744 1836. For emergencies, contact 082 441 7084.
Mopani Pharmacy has a variety of oral medications for deworming available.
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