We are often concerned about the danger to pets from predators, such as a cage bird or pet rodent threatened by a cat, or a cat threatened by a dog, but we do not always pay enough attention to the threat posed to our children from other creatures.
Figures recently issued in America claim that about 4.7 million people report dog bites per year. Each year, between 15 and 25 people die from dog bites and most of the victims are children. Children aged between 5 to 7, especially boys, are the most common victims.
In the UK 50% of homes include a pet of some description and 1600 children each year are admitted to hospital as a result of a dog bite.
Certain dog breeds, such as Alsatians and Rottweilers, account for over fifty percent of fatal cases.
When approaching an owner's dog consider the following:
In addition, some further attention should be focused on other health hazards involving dogs. The estimated population in the UK is about six million. This produces approximately 1000 tons of
faeces a day. Over 350,000 tons of dog excrement is deposited each year in children's playgrounds.
This unpleasant material very often contains a parasitic roundworm, Toxocara Canis, which can cause blindness in humans. Over 100 people each year are known to catch a disease resulting from this problem, and many of these victims are children. This is a particularly hazardous threat when very young children are on their hands and knees. Young children often put their hands in their mouths after exploring everything with their fingers, and of course, do not wash them. Even some adults can be neglectful in this way.
Another unpleasant organism which can be found in dog faeces and, in fact, all animals including humans, is Cryptosporidium Parvum. Cryptosporidiosis can be easily cured but can be very dangerous if left untreated.
Cats are the most popular pets in this country, more so than dogs, but can still create problems, such as Toxoplasmosis. This condition is caused by a single-celled protozoa called Toxoplasma Gondii, again found in the faeces. As long as normal, healthy procedures are maintained with a sensible attitude towards hygiene this condition should never occur, but people should be aware of these dangers where children are concerned.
As many of these diseases are to be found in soil very young children should be prevented from eating it or anything that may be in contact with soil. Children's hands should be washed before eating.
Even some pet reptiles, such as snakes, turtles, and lizards, can cause infections from salmonella, which is found in their faeces. This threat is becoming more serious as the interest in keeping these pets increases.
Keep reptiles away from children under five years old, and teach older children to wash their hands after handling them.
No child should be touching an animal whilst eating food, sweets, or ice creams.
All children should be closely supervised when in the presence of animals.
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