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!!!

About the Author

I trained as an EMT in NY, than recertified in Atlanta. I loved being an EMT and was involved with it for several years. I worked on the “Rainbow Response Unit” at Egleston’s Children’s Hospital in Atlanta, and when not on a call, worked in the PICU and NICU, which was both a blessing as well as a heartache because I learned and saw so much. Helping to create a child safety seat for ambulances was my way of making sure children who were already compromised health-wise, would not be put in any more danger. When I realiized I could no longer be an EMT due to medical reasons, I found an alternate outlet for my desire to nuture and protect; I became a dog trainer...something that was always a second love and passion for me. Now, whenever possible, I combine my passion for children and canines by working to make the world a safer place for both. Suzanne is a member of the PedSafe Expert team


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  1. […] that we vaccinate our pets against and how they can or cannot affect our children. This is the link to the first article just in case you missed it, because I feel this is very important subject for anyone who has kids […]

  2. […] harm your kids. (see my article about how regular vet visits can help keep your child safe….parts one and two). Also, Make sure your dog is on flea and tick preventative!! Last thing you want are those […]

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