Having a pet around a newborn baby can be totally harmless with proper supervision. As long as you never give your cat or dog full access to your baby without supervision, there shouldn’t be any problems. However, sometimes animals can act in unexpected ways. Even with supervision, your totally loving cat might suddenly become irritated or playful and swat at your baby. Or, you might be visiting friends when a playful puppy gets a little too rowdy. When your baby gets a scratch or even a bite from an animal, you’ll need to hop into action right away.

Obviously, you should first diffuse the situation so that the animal doesn’t become more agitated. Pick your baby up so that he or she is immediately our of the of the cat or dog’s reach. Then, assess the wound. If it seems like a surface scratch, clean it thoroughly. Unless the wound is in an area that could easily become dirty quickly, leave it uncovered so that it can heal faster.

If the wound is bleeding or seems especially deep, you should call your baby’s pediatrician as soon as possible. In the meantime, apply pressure to the wound to make it stop bleeding. If the wound doesn’t stop in approximately five minutes or less, you should call 911 because a blood vessel might have opened. Babies have delicate skin, so it’s much easier for wounds to become life-threatening if they’re in a particular spot. Once you reach your doctor, find out whether or not your baby might need stitches.

A simple cat scratch that you might ignore on your own body is a lot more serious on a baby. Babies have weaker immune systems and more delicate skin, so a cut or bite could easily become infected in a matter of hours. Once the infection starts, your baby won’t be able to fight it off and emergency medical attention will be required. Of course, a light cat scratch is a lot worse than a serious dog bite, but both should be taken seriously. Cats have an outrageous amount of germs and bacteria on their claws, and they get transmitted directly into your baby’s system after even the most minor and surface scratch.

You don’t need to get rid of Fluffy when you find out you’re pregnant, but you’ll definitely need to take extra care to supervise any pet and baby interactions.

Source: Itzhak Brook: Management of Human and Animal Bite Wound Infection: An Overview. Current Infections Disease Reports Volume 11 Issue 5 pp. 389-395 2009

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