There is no reason to get rid of a family pet to make room for a newborn if you follow a few simple guidelines to keep your baby safe.

By Dr. Laura Riley
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Q. I have a golden retriever who's like a child to me. Now my mother is warning me that the dog won't adapt to our having a baby, and I'm wondering if I have to get rid of him. Is it safe to have a dog around a newborn?

A. Whether your family includes a golden retriever or a black cat, you certainly don't need to get rid of beloved pets to make room for baby. However, no matter how unlikely you think it is that your trusted pet would hurt your infant, keep them apart. Most pets wouldn't harm a baby intentionally, but why take the risk of an accidental injury? Don't leave your baby lying on a blanket on the floor unattended, for instance, and be sure not to shut your cat in the baby's room. Starting now, train your pets to stay out of the nursery and off the furniture.

You should be aware that household pets can communicate viruses, bacteria, and parasites. The common belief that a pet's mouth is cleaner than a human's is just a myth; the reality is that a dog or cat bite can become infected quickly. Even minor nips or cat scratches need to be thoroughly cleansed with soap and water and possibly treated. Check with your pediatrician if your baby is bitten or scratched.

Your baby will probably be delighted by doggy and kitty kisses, but don't make that a habit. Cats and dogs often sniff or lick other animals, tasty tidbits in the neighbor's trash, and feces. It's also important to keep your pets free of fleas and ticks.

Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.

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