Glucosamine Benefits, Digging Dogs, and Other Animal Care Advice

In this installment of her regular column, the author discusses an assortment of animal care matters, including glucosamine benefits and digging dogs.

| February/March 1994

Most people would agree that animal care is as educational for children as it is rewarding. Humans aren't born with the ability to relate well to other animals (this you may remember from watching your toddler try to pull the fur right off your puppy). Too many adults don't seem to realize the limitations of kids and pets when left alone together. To teach proper handling to youngsters, adults must first separate the old wives' tales from the facts.

Take babies, for instance. Many families assume that aged animals are safe when left alone with babies.

Adults don't realize that, potentially, this is one extremely dangerous situation. Without supervision, both can behave unpredictably, especially toddlers and babies, who enjoy grabbing, yanking, and pulling fur.

Dogs—who are often jealous of new infants to begin with—may not hesitate to fight back when handled roughly. Even if a solid relationship between baby and animal develops, the potential for injury always exists. As a veterinarian, I can tell you that I've seen multiple cases of small pets being mutilated by larger children. All could have been avoided with a little parental protection.

Intentional and repeated animal abuse by older children should be taken extremely seriously. One of the worst wives' tales ever propagated is that an animal-abusing child is simply "going through a phase:' Studies have shown that children with a history of animal abuse often progress in this activity and perpetuate abuse to other children, adults, and even property as they grow up. Make sure that you, the consenting adult, keep your eyes open to these scenes and discipline your children if you see abuse occurring.

When you sit down to teach your children responsible pet care, explain carefully the idea of animal dependency. Many youngsters are oblivious to the degree of dependence that a dog, cat, hamster, or horse has on them. Young people can learn best by assisting with feeding and other chores—not by tackling them alone. There are too many stories of the tiny finch that starved in a cage even though it was fed hours ago, or the malnourished turtle who was regularly fed. The children didn't know that the finch eats every hour or that the turtle is not a strict vegetarian and can't survive on lettuce alone. Many adults probably don't know these things either, but it seems appropriate that we adults learn basic pet needs first and then teach them to our children.

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