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July 18, 2013

Kids and Animals

Emily shares her thoughts on ‘animal and children’ photos and how vets fit into the picture…

What do you feel when you see these photos?:










A warm fuzzy feeling?

Or, like me, a visceral lurch of horror?

With social media encouraging the sharing of photos more than ever, these images are becoming a mainstay of people’s feeds. Now I’m no scrooge and I wholeheartedly support the concept of children learning responsibility through pet ownership but it can’t just be me that finds these images a little bit unsettling?

So often, you see children being allowed to treat the family pet as another toy to poke, pull or fling themselves at. Even the most stoic, reliable old mongrel has their breaking point and these guys are equipped with claws, teeth and a deep rooted instinct to protect themselves with them when provoked.

Not to mention the rainbow of hygiene issues!!!

That is not to say children and pets don’t mix but just as teaching road safety is considered an important part of parenting, so too should teaching pet safety. Part of that responsibility lesson that pets are so good at imparting to children should be learning to respect an animal’s space, feelings and patience level.

But what of the vet’s part to play in this? Kids are really receptive to what a vet has to say and engaging with them during a consult can not only help with the future care of the patient but also the development of that child. One of the things I used to do in consultations when I was done listening to the heart was keep my hand on the stethoscope bell and let children have a listen, asking them whether they thought the heart was normal because I didn’t have a clue! It was always received really well but one little girl’s response particularly sticks in my mind. I called her and her mother in with their dog for an annual vaccination and started my clinical exam. She had clearly been subject to the ‘Emily experience’ before because she asked if I wanted her to have a listen as I was auscultating. I passed over the ear buds and she listened, a look of absolute concentration on her face. She then proceeded to tell me how she could hear both heart sounds, informing me that it was not the heart beating that you could hear but valves closing and that the rate was good. She must have been no older than about 7. Apparently she had asked her mum to help her research on the internet before the consultation in preparation and proudly told me that she now wanted to be a dog heart specialist!

Forgive my indulgent stroll down memory lane but hopefully it illustrates the point that what a vet does and says in the consult room can affect what happens at home. A well-placed reminder from a vet – someone in a position of authority on all things ‘pet’ as far as kids are concerned – that Rover probably doesn’t like having his tail pulled can really stick. Remember that whatever is said to the child is also being heard by the parent and on many occasions it’s no bad thing that both parties receive a reminder of the potential risk that pets present.