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Published on June 27, 2019

curious toddler crawling in the grass

Toddlers and Pets: What To Do If Kids Find Poo – and More Facts

Once they start crawling, little kids can get into everything – including the cat box or a spot where your puppy likes to poop. It happens – kids are curious – but when it does, it can lead to a mom or dad freaking out a bit.

“Toddlers tend to put things in their mouth, and if that happens to be pet waste, it’s not an emergency,” said Oleksandr “Alex” Kachanov, MD, a pediatrician with Avera Medical Group Pediatrics Aberdeen. “If the waste is from a healthy animal, it is troubling but not something you should panic about. Wash them up, especially their mouths, teeth and finger nails, and give them sips of water.”

After that, just keep an eye on the child. They should be fine, but if they are vomiting or have bloody diapers or stools, then call your doctor, he said.

“Kids usually have really strong immune systems and can fight off bacteria if this happens, and it can happen,” Kachanov said. “Parents can always call poison control if they are worried.”

Pets and children of any age can mix with love and few problems, but a galaxy of half-wrong myths surrounds this unique time in a family’s life. Kachanov provides the facts:

Cats and Babies

They can come together in a home, but there are steps that mom and dad should take.

“Prepare the home and do not let cats into the baby’s sleeping space,” he said. “Cats should also be slowly introduced to new babies so they do not get scared and scratch or spray the new member of the family. Litter boxes should be kept far from the child’s room or sleeping space, too.

Moms and Litter Boxes

Speaking of the “cat’s bathroom” – no pregnant women should clean them up. That becomes someone else’s chore during pregnancy. “Bacteria in cat waste can lead to many problems in unborn children,” Kachanov said. “Toddlers who might touch a litter box will be OK, but moms-to-be should not have anything to do with cleaning them.

Pet Allergies and Kids

The idea that babies who are exposed to dogs or cats are less likely to develop animal allergies is widespread, but there is no agreement on the truth of this notion. “The studies and research are really mixed, with both sides showing some valid points,” said Kachanov. “Children around age 1 may show signs like runny nose, wheezing or matter-covered eyes after exposure to a dog or cat. There are treatments for kids of any age to help with symptoms, and sometimes it’s wise for families who are considering a pet with fur to have their young child spend time with a family member’s pet and see if they have a reaction. If they do, you can coordinate the next steps with your family’s provider or pediatrician.

Human babies and “fur” babies can mingle with few problems – but some common sense goes a long way.

“Keep your pets healthy with regular vet visits and vaccinations, use a lot of hand-washing and things should be just fine,” Kachanov said.

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