Babies and Pets

Things to do before the baby is born:
  • Make sure all vaccinations are up-to-date for both dogs and cats.
  • Make sure pets are checked for internal parasites, including roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, tapeworms, and heartworms.
  • Make sure you have enough heartworm prevention, flea preparations as well as any necessary drugs the pet may need on hand for a few months past your due date. Ask your veterinarian about the one-a-month heartworm preventatives (dogs) and flea control products (dogs and cats).
  • Begin introducing your pet to the idea that a change is coming: Introduce the nursery to the pet. Expose pet to "baby" smells, i.e. baby lotion or powder.
  • Practice cuddling with a doll, devoting your attention to it, and monitor reactions of the dog or cat.
  • Ask friends their opinion of your pet; have they noticed any particular changes of attitude?
  • Let your pet have experience around babies, toddlers, and children, borrow a child/toddler/baby and parent for a few hours.
  • Tape baby's crying and play those sounds.
  • Decide if you want an inside or outside pet, and make those changes before the baby arrives.
  • If your pet does things now that you don't want him to do later, i.e., sleep with you, jump up on you, etc., start now correcting those behaviors.
Things to do when the baby comes home:
  • Consider boarding the pet or having a neighbor come by to give the dog some extra attention while the primary focus is on you and your newest member. There will be a lot of traffic in and out of the house the first week or so.
  • Send home a garment the baby has worn in the hospital to acclimate the dog to the new smell.
  • If the pet jumps up on you or is bonded to the person who will be holding the baby when you enter your home, let the "unbonded" person hold the baby.
  • Begin a gradual introduction, with a leash, 2 people, the baby and a lot of praise.
  • Look for protective signs from the pet: guarding food and water bowls, guarding toys, etc. The crawling baby may enter territory that could set up aggressive behavior from the pet.
  • Never leave the pet alone with the baby initially.
  • Toddlers using pets as a guide to walking could be in trouble. Some pets do not like the aggressive position a toddler assumes when the toddler holds onto the dog's shoulders.
  • Beware of all exotic pets, esp. ferrets.
All the efforts used to incorporate the pet and the baby into the family will be justly rewarded. The outcome will be to enlarge the family and not divide it.