When Yvonne Foo found out that she was expecting two years ago, her parents and older relatives advised her to give up her shih tzu. She refused.
“I had Phoebe for 13 years – since she was a puppy. She was like a baby to me, too,” the 39-year-old freelance designer shares.
Her Baby vs Dog dilemma is part of a growing trend as Singapore’s household animal population expands; according to a report in The New Paper in March this year, there are expected to be some 824,300 pets here by 2016.
Young Parents looks at the issues you’ll face when you juggle a newborn and a beloved pet.
IS IT SAFE?
While Yvonne’s well-meaning relatives were concerned about hygiene and safety, she turned to an expert for advice, instead. “I consulted my vet, who said that diseases transferring from my dog to my baby was not a big issue.”
Dr Natalie Epton, specialist paediatrician and neonatologist at the International Paediatric Clinic, sets the record straight: Newborns and pets can live under one roof, but there are precautions you should take. For instance, it’s best to not let the dog lick your little one’s face during the first few months, as bacteria in its saliva is likely to expose Baby to the risk of infection.
Dr Brian Loon, principal veterinary surgeon at Amber Vet adds that you should never leave a baby together with the pet in same room without supervision by a competent adult.
In fact, until you are sure of your dog’s sentiments, he recommends having two adults present in the beginning – one to watch Baby, and another to supervise the pet in case it has to be quickly (but calmly) taken away.
WHAT ABOUT ALLERGIES?
But what about pet fur, which is linked to allergies? Chisa Wada, who kept her English cocker spaniel and cavalier king charles spaniel after her son Yue Long was born in 2011, isn’t overly concerned.
“While I know some people worry about babies developing allergies or other illnesses from pets, I also know that because I’ve had the two dogs for a long time, I should already have immunity and it should pass from me to my baby,” says the 42-year-old senior researcher.
Dr Epton agrees, citing studies that show that having your infant live with a pet can reduce the number of respiratory tract and ear infections within the first year of his life, and that early exposure to animal fur (of dogs more so than cats) may help to reduce the likelihood of developing allergies.
However, that benefit doesn’t translate to older children who already have a tendency towards allergies.
“If you don’t currently have a dog, don’t go out and buy one just so that your baby will have fewer ear infections. But if you do have a dog, don’t worry too much about the potential for diseases to spread to your baby,” she explains.