How Can Regular Vet Visits Help Keep Your Kids Safe Too? Part1

I want to preface this post by saying that recently, many of my clients who know I write articles here about child and pet safety have started to ask me many questions relating to health issues that affect dogs, and wondering which ones, if any, may affect their children as well. While colds and flu’s are worried kids with puppy at vethitting everyone around us pretty hard this year, and seem to be hanging on for a long time, there are a few questions I seem to be asked by clients quite frequently. You may recognize some of the questions, as you may have asked yourself some of them on more than one occasion. For example, “My child has been sick for several weeks now; is it possible the dog is carrying the germ and re-infecting them?” or “Is the canine influenza virus the same as human influenza? Should I keep my child away from the dog just in case?” And then there are many diseases we vaccinate our pets against, without even knowing much about those diseases, and how the diseases can or can’t affect the family.

In order to give them accurate answers, I started to do some extensive research on the subject. Well, before I knew it, I had written almost 6 pages of information!! So I decided the best thing to do was to divide this article into two parts, so I could bring you the most up-to-date and current information. This article will focus mainly on disease canines can get, and which ones CAN and CANNOT affect your children. Next month, I will focus more on the intestinal parasites they can be prone to.

I feel it is important to stress here that I am NOT a licensed veterinarian, so I am writing this post based solely on information I have been able to compile to help inform you as best as I can, and maybe something I write will bring up some questions that maybe you never even thought to ask! Either way, please consult your pet’s veterinarian and your pediatrician for the ‘final word’ on all of this. I think the best way to approach this is to divide each category into 5 topics: What is the disease, Signs that your pet may have the disease, Can your child catch it, How dangerous is the disease to your child, and how can you avoid your pet from getting the disease to begin with. So, let’s begin with…..

Canine Influenza.

  • What is it: According to the CDC, this strain of virus, also known as H3N8, originated in horses. The H3N8 equine influenza (horse flu) virus has been known to exist in horses for more than 40 years. In 2004, however, cases of an unknown respiratory illness in dogs (initially greyhounds) were reported in the United States. An investigation showed that this respiratory illness was caused by the equine influenza A H3N8 virus. Scientists believe this virus jumped species (from horses to dogs) and has adapted to cause illness in dogs and spread among dogs, especially those housed in kennels and shelters. This is now considered a dog-specific H3N8 virus
  • Early Signs Your Pet May Have It: Similar to the signs we humans show: Runny nose, coughing, sneezing, lethargy and fever.
  • Can Your Child Catch It? As of now, there are no reported cases of this disease being transferred from Animals to humans, but just like strains of the human flu are constantly changing, so too are the strains of flu in other species. So keep yourself informed and updated.
  • How Dangerous Is This For Your Child: As of now, according to the CDC, it is not.
  • How Can I Avoid This: While there is a Canine Flu vaccine that vets highly recommend, just like the human vaccine, it generally helps, but is not a guarantee that your dog will not get it. The vaccination just reduces the likelihood of contracting it. Also, be cautious when boarding your dog at a kennel or a vet, as it is very contagious from dog to dog.

To read more in-depth information on this, you can go to:


  • What Is It: Rabies is a deadly disease that is carried in the saliva of some wild animals. It attacks the nervous system and can cause brain inflammation. Although survival is possible, the virus almost always kills its host. The virus grows in the muscle tissue before moving into the spinal cord and brain. The virus cannot survive for more than a day outside its host. The most common way to contract rabies is through the saliva of an animal already infected by it. (Most commonly found in animals such as raccoons, skunks, foxes, and bats) which can only happen through a direct bite. It can also be transferred through an open wound by a scratch of an infected animal where there is a current open wound. A dog can contract rabies if they are not vaccinated against it.
  • Early Signs Your Pet May Have This: Restlessness, unusual fearfulness, unusual aggression (growling, snapping or biting at people), fever, lethargy in a usually active animal, loss of appetite, or trying to hide and isolate in dark places.
  • Can Your Child Catch It? Yes. But the only ways your child or family would be at risk for this disease is if they are either bitten by a wild animal that is already infected by this disease (if your un-vaccinated dog is bitten by another animal who carries the disease, has gone through the ‘incubation period’ (which can be 2-12 weeks) and then turns around and bites your child) or if an infected animal scratches your child where they already have an open wound.
  • How Dangerous Is This For Your Child? Very serious. There are a series of shots your child can get that will essentially save their lives, but the usefulness depends on how close they are administered after the initial bite. For this reason, it is very important that you stress to your child the importance of ALWAYS telling you if they ever get a bite. A child might be afraid to tell you if the family dog bites them because they might fear the dog getting in trouble, or being given away. A wild animal that seems to be unusually tame is a natural attraction to curious kids…. But this is a ‘later sign’ in an infected animal. This is why the largest incidents of wild animal bites in humans are kids under the age of 15. They may be afraid to tell you they touched a wild animal for fear they might get in trouble, and therefore hide the bite from you. This can cause a huge delay in getting medicine that may save their lives. The CDC has an animated website that you can go to with your kids to teach them all about this.
  • How Can I Avoid This: The best way to avoid this is if you live in an area heavily populated with raccoons, foxes, skunks, bats, or if you do a lot of outdoor activities in these types of areas, make sure you vaccinate your dog as your vet recommends. Once the vaccination is given to your pet, it is in their system and the vaccination itself will not harm anyone touching the pet in any way.

You can read more information on this from the CDC site:


The first thing I am going to say is how shocked I was to realize how incorrect my own personal knowledge of this disease was! So as I mentioned, writing this post has been very informative for me as well!! I seriously thought that Leptospirosis could NOT be transferred from animals to humans! Wow was I wrong!

Four of the five subcategory questions were pretty much all answered in one quote from the CDC, so I am just going to paraphrase them here, then include a direct link to their site so you can read more on it.

According to the CDC “Leptospirosis is a disease caused by spiral shaped bacteria called “leptospires.” It occurs worldwide and can affect humans as well as many wild and domestic animals, including dogs and cats. The disease can be serious for both humans and animals. In people, the symptoms are often like the flu, but sometimes leptospirosis can develop into a more severe, life-threatening illness with infections in the kidney, liver, brain, lung, and heart. The bacteria are spread through the urine of infected animals, which can get into water or soil and can survive there for weeks to months. Humans and animals can become infected through contact with this contaminated urine (or other body fluids, except saliva), water, or soil. The bacteria can enter the body through skin or mucous membranes (eyes, nose, or mouth), especially if the skin is broken from a cut or scratch. Drinking contaminated water can also cause infection. Infected wild and domestic animals may continue to excrete the bacteria into the environment continuously or every once in a while for a few months up to several years.”

  • How Can I Avoid This: The CDC highly recommends vaccinating your pet against this disease regularly, but cautions that there are many strains of this disease, so the vaccination is not a 100% guarantee. Your best bet is to try to keep the rodent population in your area down to a minimum!

Please educate yourself on this disease by going here: I am really glad I did!!!!

Parvo (Parvovirus)

  • What Is It: Parvo is a life-threatening, highly-contagious viral disease. The virus attacks very rapidly, and most severely attacking the dogs intestinal tract. It also attacks the white blood cells. According to WebMD, “Parvovirus is extremely contagious and can be transmitted by any person, animal or object that comes in contact with it. Highly resistant, the virus can live in the environment for months, and may survive on inanimate objects such as food bowls, shoes, clothes, carpet and floors. It is common for an unvaccinated dog to contract parvovirus from the streets, especially in urban areas where there are many dogs.”
  • Early Signs Your Pet May Have This: Lethargy, severe vomiting, loss of appetite and bloody, foul-smelling diarrhea that can lead to life-threatening dehydration.
  • Can Your Child Catch This: According to the CDC, the parvovirus does not cross between species. Although it is a very contagious disease, it stays within the species. There is a parvovirus that humans get (also known as 5th disease, or B19) it is completely different from the parvovirus that canines get.
  • How Dangerous Is This For Your Child: Again, according to the CDC, it stays within the species. So while you child can get a bad case of Parvovirus from his best buddy at school (which symptoms are that of a really bad cold or flu) they can not get the deadly symptoms associated with Canine Parvovirus.
  • How Can I Avoid This: WebMD also states, “You can protect your dog from this potential killer by making sure he’s up-to-date on his vaccinations. Parvovirus should be considered a core vaccine for all puppies and adult dogs. It is usually recommended that puppies be vaccinated with combination vaccines that take into account the risk factors for exposure to various diseases. One common vaccine, called a “5-in-1,” protects the puppy from distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvovirus and parainfluenza.”

Read more on this here:

Canine distemper:

This is another one where most of the subcategories have pretty much all been answered in the one quote. According to the PetHealthNetwork:

“It is a very contagious and deadly disease caused by a virus. Dogs and ferrets as well as certain species of wildlife, such as raccoons, wolves, foxes, and skunks, are at risk. Although there is no cure for distemper, the most important fact to remember is that it is preventable through vaccination. For dogs that have developed clinical signs of distemper, the prognosis is very guarded depending on the immune response and severity of symptoms. Dogs that develop neurological signs are the least likely to recover. While dogs of all ages can become infected with canine distemper virus, puppies—especially those with poor immune systems or those that are unvaccinated or not completely vaccinated—are at the greatest risk for this nasty virus, which is spread through the air or by direct contact. It invades the tonsils and lymph nodes first, and then spreads to the respiratory, urinary, digestive, and nervous systems.”

  • Can Your Child Catch This and How Dangerous Is This For Them: And after much research, I have found that it is not often a major concern for humans; humans can get the virus, but there are no effects.

So it is here I will start winding all of this down, and in doing so just give you a quick reminder that each one of the illnesses mentioned above can be either mostly or totally avoided just by simply taking your dog to the vet for their regularly scheduled vaccinations. In keeping your pets safe, you are helping to keep your kids safe too! As I mentioned earlier, I began researching some of this in order to answer some questions for my clients, but I have learned so much myself, I thought it was important to share this information with all of you who have children that could be directly affected as well.

I hope you have gained some valuable information, and I am also going to end this by adding one more link: It is an A-Z list of diseases that can cross between animals and humans….because this article is long enough already, and there is just no way I can cover them all! Also just a quick reminder that next month I will cover intestinal parasites dogs can be prone to.

We all strive to make our homes a happy one…. let’s do all we can to make our homes a safe and healthy one too!!!

The Return of Xander Cage is Sensory Friendly at AMC Tomorrow

New sensory friendly logoAMC Entertainment (AMC) has expanded their Sensory Friendly Films program in partnership with the Autism Society. This Tuesday evening, families affected by autism or other special needs have the opportunity to view a sensory friendly screening of xXx: The Return of Xander Cage, a film that may appeal to older audiences on the autism spectrum.

As always, the movie auditoriums will have their lights turned up and the sound turned down. Families will be able to bring in snacks to match their child’s dietary needs (i.e. gluten-free, casein-free, etc.), there are no advertisements or previews before the movie and it’s totally acceptable to get up and dance, walk, shout, talk to each other…and even sing – in other words, AMC’s “Silence is Golden®” policy will not be enforced during movie screenings unless the safety of the audience is questioned.

Does it make a difference? Absolutely! Imagine …no need to shhhhh your child. No angry stares from other movie goers. Many parents think twice before bringing a child to a movie theater. Add to that your child’s special needs and it can easily become cause for parental panic. But on this one day a month, for this one screening, everyone is there to relax and have a good time, everyone expects to be surrounded by kids – with and without special needs – and the movie theater policy becomes “Tolerance is Golden“.

AMC and the Autism Society will be showing xXx: The Return of Xander Cage tomorrow, Tuesday, January 24th at 7pm (local time). Tickets are $4 to $6 depending on the location. To find a theatre near you, here is a list of AMC theatres nationwide participating in this fabulous program (note: to access full list, please scroll to the bottom of the page).

Coming Later in January: Monster Trucks (Sat, 1/28)


Editor’s note: Although xXx: The Return of Xander Cage has been chosen by AMC and the Autism Society for a Tuesday Sensory Friendly screening, we do want parents to know that it is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for extended sequences of gunplay and violent action, and for sexual material and language. As always, please check the IMDB Parents Guide for a more detailed description of this film to determine if it is right for you and your family.

Teen Suicide: How to Explain Your Grief to Your Child

My son is now fourteen and a Freshman in High School. Within months of starting the new school year, his high school marching band community suffered tragedy: the suicide of one of its members. And despite the large number of kids in the band – this tragedy was close. The boy who died, Patrick, was the head of my son’s instrument section.

teen suicide - my griefI didn’t know Patrick well, but the impact of his death on me was surprising. Both the fact and the nature of it were a profound shock when I first heard about it – via text from my son when he arrived at school one Friday morning.

The next several days were a painful procession of events and rituals: gatherings at homes of the kids, a candlelight vigil at the school stadium where the band regularly practiced, visitations and funeral mass at the local Catholic Church.

I was concerned for my son, but I was also in pain. I cried a lot. I wanted to know what happened. I wanted to know “why?” I kept picturing Patrick at practices. He was extremely alive, outgoing and very good looking. None of this should matter, but somehow it did. When we learned he had shot himself in a moment of despair over getting in some trouble, I thought about his parents. I was sick at the thought. I was also angry. Angry that he thought this was his only option. Angry that he had access to a gun.

My son was surprised by my grief. He kept saying that I hardly knew Patrick, and he didn’t expect me to want to attend the various gatherings. I began to feel that he might think I was “muscling in” on a situation that was personal to him. Certainly he and the others in his small instrument section were closing ranks and I let him go out with them a lot, and had a couple of boys stay for a sleepover after the vigil. He was crying a lot too and talking with his peers seemed to help.

But I was pretty sure my son couldn’t see past his own confusion and grief to know that I was also genuinely in pain. I couldn’t find a lot of resources for parent grief when a child’s friend dies, but one website – the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide (SPTS) – gave some good advice: First deal with your own feelings.

“It is critical for you to take time to deal with your own feelings before you approach your child. Remember the directives from air travel about the use of oxygen masks – you must put on your own mask before you can help anyone else with theirs!” SPTS

I thought about all the reasons why I was so upset: the senseless loss, empathy for his parents, concern for the impact on my son, even worry that some incidents between my son and Patrick (which I spoke to the Band Director about) might have contributed to the suicide decision. Bottom line, I think it was just that it felt so wrong for a boy of just 17 to die like this. Thankfully, my son is a fairly good communicator – and so, finally, I talked about how I was in pain too and I asked if he had thoughts on why I was grieving even though I wasn’t close to Patrick. He was quite perceptive since he understood that I didn’t want the same thing to happen to him. But he didn’t realize how much I was identifying with Patrick’s parents, feeling at least some of their pain. And I couldn’t let things return to “normal” right away. The police officer who led the long snaking line of cars to the cemetery gave out large stickers reading “funeral” for our windshields. I kept the sticker on my console for a few weeks afterwards. It felt right to have a visible reminder of what had happened, and not to “move on” too quickly.

In the end, talking about my grief gave us a shared experience for coping with the ordeal. It also made it possible to talk about suicide in general and how, as someone I know put it: “suicide is a terrible and permanent solution to a temporary problem” – even if it doesn’t feel that way at the time.

Resources for dealing with teen suicide:

Learning Disability: More than Just School Troubles

A learning disability affects the way a person learns new things in any area of life, not just at school. Find out how a learning disability can affect someone, and where you can find support.

A learning disability affects the way a person understands information and how they communicate. Around 1.5m people in the UK have one. This means they can have difficulty:

  • Understanding new or complex information
  • Learning new skills
  • Coping independently

It is thought that up to 350,000 people have severe learning disabilities. This figure is increasing.

understand learning disabilityMild, Moderate or Severe Learning Disability

A learning disability can be mild, moderate or severe. Some people with a mild learning disability can talk easily and look after themselves, but take a bit longer than usual to learn new skills. Others may not be able to communicate at all and have more than one disability (see Profound and multiple learning disability, below).

A learning disability is not the same as a learning difficulty or mental illness. Consultant paediatrician Dr Martin Ward Platt says: “It can be very confusing,” he says, pointing out that the term “learning difficulties” is used by some people to cover the whole range of learning disabilities.

“It is easy to give the impression, by using a term like ‘learning difficulties’, that a child has less of a disability than they really do,” says Dr Ward Platt.

Some children with learning disabilities grow up to be quite independent, while others need help with everyday tasks, such as washing or getting dressed, for their whole lives. It depends on their abilities.

Children and young people with a learning disability may also have special educational needs. Find out more about education and how you can request a statement.

Sources of Support for Learning Disabilities

Some learning disabilities are diagnosed at birth, such as Down’s syndrome. Others might not be discovered until the child is old enough to talk or walk.

Once your child is diagnosed with a learning disability, your GP (*pediatrician or family doctor) can refer you for any specialist support you may need. You’ll begin to get to know the team of professionals who will be involved in your child’s care.

Support from professionals – including GPs, paediatricians, speech and language therapists, physiotherapists and educational and clinical psychologists – is available to help individuals live as full and independent a life as possible.

What Causes Learning Disabilities?

A learning disability happens when a person’s brain development is affected, either before they are born, during their birth or in early childhood.

Several factors can affect brain development, including:

  • The mother becoming ill in pregnancy
  • Problems during the birth that stop enough oxygen getting to the brain
  • The unborn baby developing certain genes
  • The parents passing certain genes to the unborn baby that make having a learning disability more likely (known as inherited learning disability)
  • Illness, such as meningitis, or injury in early childhood

Sometimes there is no known cause for a learning disability.

Some conditions are associated with having a learning disability, such as cerebral palsy. This is because people with these conditions are more likely to have one.

Everyone with Down’s syndrome, for example, has some kind of learning disability, and so do many people with cerebral palsy. People with autism may also have learning disabilities, and around 30% of people with epilepsy have a learning disability.

Profound and Multiple Learning Disability (PMLD)

A diagnosis of a profound and multiple learning disability (PMLD) is used when a child has more than one disability, with the most significant being a learning disability.

Many children diagnosed with PMLD will also have a sensory or physical disability, complex health needs, or mental health difficulties. People with PMLD need a carer or carers to help them with most areas of everyday life, such as eating, washing and going to the toilet.

If you are looking after a child or adult with PMLD, you can find help and support in Care and support.

Editor’s Note: *clarification provided for our US readers.

Child Health & Safety News: Wk 3 “Melatonin Risks for Kids -TBD”

twitter thumbIn this week’s Children’s Health News: Heartburn Drugs in Pregnancy Tied to Asthma in Babies

Welcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world. Each day we use social media to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we miss something, but overall we think we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for friends and colleagues not on Twitter or FB (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of this past week’s top 20 events & stories.

PedSafe Child Health & Safety Headline of the Week:
Is the Sleep Aid Melatonin Safe for Children and Adults?
Long Term Risks and Effects are Unknown

Want Kinder Kids? 6 Simple Ways Kids Can Practice at School

Practicing kindness is what helps children tune into other people’s feelings and needs, trust more, step out of their own skins to understand others, and become UnSelfies (my term for kids who are “more we, less me” oriented). Each kind act nudges kids to notice others (“I see how you feel”), care (“I’m concerned about you”), empathize (“I feel with you”) and help and comfort (“Let me ease your pain”).

Helping students practice kindness also activates empathy and creates more caring schools. That’s why I consider “Practicing Kindness” as an essential habit of empathy.

Over the last years, I’ve observed countless classrooms around the world as I researched ways to nurture children’s empathy and reduce bullying. Here are a few favorite ways educators help students practice kindness and acquire empathy from my book, UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World. The book includes over 300 practical ways based on the latest science, and none cost a dime, and are simple to implement.

1. “High Five” Hallways

logoA group of elementary Wisconsin teachers recognized that their hallways were always crowded and didn’t have that warm “feel tone.” But students had an idea to create a more caring climate: “Everybody can give ‘High Fives’ as they walk to class!” And that’s exactly what students now do (as well as teachers, the principal, and any guest). Not only is the school tone friendlier, but students are practicing social emotional skills like eye contact, giving encouragement and saying kind comments.

School hallways are usually congregated areas and notorious “hot spots” for bullying. But just by having students deliberately acknowledge one another in friendly, caring ways, bullying can be reduced and kindness can be the new norm. And everyone seems to be wearing bigger smiles.

2. Sidewalk Chalk Artists

Want a simple way to brighten up your school and spread kindness? Purchase large quantities of colored sidewalk chalk! Start by forming small student teams who will decide what kind messages they want to spread to others. (Ideas must chalk-lovebe approved by the teacher).

Then each team or class draws their kind, friendly messages on approved school-ground spots such as asphalt, sidewalks or playgrounds. It’s a colorful way to brighten your school grounds while kids practice kindness and collaboration.

And don’t overlook teens! I recently visited St. Francis High School in the Bay Area and noticed that their sidewalks were decorated with student-drawn inspirational kindness quotes.

3. Student Greeters

Clover Park School District in Washington recognized an untapped talent: students with strong social emotional skills who could serve as models to other students. And every school has friendly, kind kids whose skill set can be a powerful model for peers to copy. The staff identified these students and asked them to serve as student greeters. They wore red baseball caps so they were easily identified (other schools have made special vests). Greeters were stationed at the front door and welcomed entering students (“Hi!” “Glad you’re here!” “Have a good day.”) The staff reported a positive change in climate in just a short while. Students began to look forward to the greeting. And many arriving students began to return the same positive statements to the greeters.

4. Student Welcome Wagons

New kids can feel the pain of exclusion. So why not initiate a “Welcome Wagon Committee” of students to greet newcomers, give them a school tour, and pair them with “veteran” students. Photos of new arrivals can be featured on a faculty bulletin board to alert staff members of these students. Some schools with highly mobile populations arrange “get acquainted” sessions with new students where they learn about their school, connect with others, and practice kindness.

5. Cross-Age Buddies

This approach has been effective in boosting academic achievement and creating positive student connections. Student helpers are typically two to three grade levels ahead of the peers they tutor. Not only can they tutor students on academic tasks, but they can also teach the SEL skills to their younger buddy. And the experience can help build empathy, especially if the tutor assumes the role of a big brother or sister to a younger “buddy.” What’s more, the big buddy can begin to reframe his image and see himself as a caring person.

6. Learning Buddies

This idea was shared by a Vancouver teacher who assigned each student to be the learning buddy of another student in the classroom every week or month. Students pair up with their partners a few minutes a day. The strategy builds connections, enhances achievement and opens empathy. A few ideas:

  • Students quickly turn to their buddies and agree on the task directions before they work on the task alone.
  • Buddies discuss three main points from their homework assignment or from the task they just completed.
  • The buddy calls or emails an absent partner to say: “We miss you,” provides missed assignments, or makes a get-well card with class signatures.

Or students (teachers, principals, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, yard supervisors, counselors, nurses, psychologists) can just take a moment to welcome and encourage one another. It’s also wonderful way to nurture students’ empathy and practice kindness.

There are countless ways for students to practice kindness and increase their empathy capacities. But look for real, meaningful, face-to-face type experiences. Those are the kinds of opportunities our students need to develop caring mindsets and become caring, socially responsible, good people.


UnSelfie 140x210Teens today are 40 percent less empathetic than they were thirty years ago. Why is a lack of empathy—along with the self-absorption epidemic Dr. Michele Borba calls the Selfie Syndrome—so dangerous? First, it hurts kids’ academic performance and leads to bullying behaviors. Also, it correlates with more cheating and less resilience. And once children grow up, it hampers their ability to collaborate, innovate and problem-solve—all must-have skills for the global economy. The good news? Empathy is a trait that can be taught and nurtured. UnSelfie is a blueprint for parents and educators who want activate our children’s hearts and shift their focus from I, me, and mine… to we, us, and ours. It’s time to include “empathy” in our parenting and teaching! UnSelfie is AVAILABLE NOW at