HCF Fit and Well : Winter 2012
Before you say no to your child's next request for a guinea pig or axolotl, consider this: "Pets teach children about empathy, responsibility, communication and affection," says Dr David Neck, President of the Australian Small Animal Veterinary Association. "Pet play encourages laughter, while walking a dog boosts levels of exercise." Research from Henry Ford Hospital in the US also shows having a cat or dog around can halve your child's risk of developing allergies to these animals. To ensure your pet brings happiness, not harm to your family home, make sure you consider the following. Animal hygiene There is a risk of infection if your child is in contact with pet fur, skin or faeces or is exposed to bacteria from bites, licks or scratches. Tips: • Ensure your child washes their hands with soap and water after handling the pet or its toys and bedding. Hands should always be washed before eating. • “Check pets often for ﬂeas or ticks and de-worm dogs every three months," Dr Neck advises. • Teach your kids not to kiss their pet or eat its food. • Insist children wear gloves when changing the litter. Receive 10% off HCF Pet Insurance HCF Pet Insurance can help if your dog or cat falls ill. Members receive a 10% discount on new HCF Pet Insurance policies. For information, call 1800 630 681 or see www.hcf.com.au/petinsurance This product is issued and underwritten by The Hollard Insurance Company Pty Ltd ABN 78 090 584 473 (AFSL No. 241436). Consider the combined Financial Services Guide and Product Disclosure Statement available at www.hcf.com.au before deciding to buy or continue to hold this product. • Designate pet-free zones such as bedrooms and the lounge. • “Don’t allow your child to lie in the dog's bed, play in the rabbit's cage or put their hands in the ﬁshbowl or birdcage,” says Dr Neck. Pet play "To avoid an excited child stressing the animal and being bitten or scratched, always supervise children when playing with animals," Dr Neck advises. Tips: • Discourage games that involve teasing, tug of war or wrestling that could cause the animal to bite or scratch. • Demonstrate to your child how to pat gently. "Avoid head patting as some pets regard this as a sign you are trying to dominate them and may become aggressive," says Dr Neck. • Encourage your child to look out for signs of stress in their pet and move away. "These include growling or hissing, an arched back, showing teeth, pulling ears back or ﬂat, and hair standing on end," Dr Neck explains. • Teach kids respectful play. This means no pulling its ears or tail, hugging too tightly, covering the animal with blankets or other objects, sneaking up on it or making sudden loud noises. FIT&WELL 21 Cuddling with a ﬂuffy kitten or playing fetch with an eager dog can help your child learn important skills for life. PET POWER Handle with care Helping care for the family pet teaches children to be more organised, responsible and giving. Here's how they can help: • Under 10s are able to change water bowls and help ser ve feed to animals. However, warn them never to interrupt or touch their pet when it is eating. • Pre-teens (10 –13) are able to feed animals, hold the lead when out walking and bathe pets, however, you should always supervise. • Teenagers (14+) can handle everything from bathing to walking the dog and cleaning out the birdcage. However, they should be monitored if their social activities or study commitments increase, as this may lead to pet neglect.