New parents with dogs and cats sometimes consider giving pets away when a baby arrives, but a new study finds keeping the furry family members in tow may boost a child’s health benefits.
A Finnish study finds babies who grow up with pets – especially dogs – are less likely to develop colds and other respiratory infections by the time they’re toddlers. The study, published online July 9,1012 in Pediatrics, tracked 397 kids in Finland from before they were born until they turned 1-year-old. Weekly questionnaires were given to parents that asked about their child’s health and whether they owned a pet.
The researchers determined that 245 of the babies had a dog in the home (62 percent) and 136 babies (34 percent) had cat contact. While respiratory infections and symptoms such as colds and wheezing are common in infants, an analysis revealed that babies who had early contact with dogs or cats were significantly healthier during the study and were 30 percent less likely to experience coughs, ear infections and symptoms such as stuffiness, runny nose, sneezing and congestion (rhinitis).
More contact with the dog was associated with fewer health problems in general, which led the researchers to believe that early contact with an animal may mature the immune system in infancy, helping toddlers better ward off disease. Owning a cat was also tied to protective health benefits, but the effect was much weaker. The strongest benefits were seen in children who had a dog inside at home for six hours a day or fewer, rather than at home all day, which might suggest what dogs track in may help boost early immunity.
“I think the development of the immune system is very complicated,” Dr. Jennifer Appleyard, chief of allergy and immunology at St. John Hospital and Medical Center, in Detroit, told HealthDay. “Parents shouldn’t feel guilty about having or not having a pet when their child is young. If you want a pet, get a pet,” she said.
Most cats are not very happy travelers – they are usually bonded strongly to their own territory and don’t feel as safe away from home. As a result most cats do not have “taking a driving trip” on their Bucket List. Some cat owners are lucky and have a cat that has been on many car trips and enjoys being in the car.
When taking your cat on a road trip here are a few helpful considerations:
- Having a loose cat in the car can be very dangerous for the cat, the driver and other occupants. While in the car cats should be kept in a strong, easy to clean carrier with doors that latch closed.
- The size of the carrier depends on the driving time. For long driving trips the carrier should be large enough to put a small litter box along with small bowls for food and fresh water.
- The carrier must be secured in the car to prevent slipping or tipping during sudden stops or turns.
- Keep the carrier out of the sun and near air vents to keep fresh air circulating into the carrier.
- Pack extra towels and plastic trash bags in case the bedding in the carrier gets soiled.
- Many cats will meow initially or even throughout the trip. Speak calmly and reassuringly to it but resist letting it out of the carrier. A noisy cat is unlikely to be suffering – just voicing its dislike of the situation!
- Before opening a car door or window, make sure the cat is in the carrier or is wearing a secure harness with a leash. Trying to catch a scared cat outside the car in a new environment can be very difficult.
- The Microchip Identification system is the most effective way to identify a lost pet. The process of implanting the microchip is similar to giving a vaccination.
- If your cat has medical concerns or you are worried about traveling with your cat, it is important to consult with your veterinarian. Together you and your doctor can come up with a plan for your feline friend.
- All of our doctors at All Creatures Hospital have a lot of experience with cats and dogs traveling domestically and internationally. Whether you are considering a short driving trip or you are moving to Australia on the other side of the world, talk to one of our doctors and develop a plan to insure your 4-legged friend travels comfortably and arrives safely.
Hope everybody had a chance to snuggle with their furries this weekend.
We wish all the moms, step-moms and adoptive moms a very happy Mother’s Day. Have a great weekend.
As the Mother’s Day holiday approaches, lily plants seem to abound. As beautiful as they are, out of all the plants that are toxic to your cat, lilies are most dangerous.
All parts of the lily plant are highly toxic to cats. Even if your cat ingests a small amount, as little as two or three petals or leaves, it can kill them under the radar weeks and sometimes even months later. Don’t overlook the pollen or water from the vase. This is just as toxic as the plant itself.
If you suspect your cat has consumed any part of a lily plant, bring your cat immediately to our office for medical care. When in doubt, call the Pet Poison Hotline at 800-213-6680 for life-saving information.
Providing plenty of distractions may help redirect an aggressive cat’s energy. Learn how to encourage appropriate playtime behavior.
Playing roughly with your cat encourages her to use her teeth and claws on people, a difficult habit to break. Cat scratches and bites are prone to infection, so discourage kittens and cats from engaging in rough play with human companions.
Sometimes rough play can be redirected onto toys. Distracting a cat with an interactive toy can stop some playful attacks. Providing your cat with plenty of toys helps keep her occupied and reduces her motivation to attack you.
If distractions don’t work, try making a sudden loud noise. Don’t hit, slap or kick your cat. Such physical punishment is inhumane and often makes the problem worse.
You must learn to distinguish rough play from true aggression, where the cat’s motivation is to do harm. Aggression can be caused by illness, pain, fear or territoriality; your cat may also redirect aggression aimed at another animal toward you. Aggression is a serious problem. Visit our office before referring the situation to a certified behavior specialist