2008-06-27 / Pets

Owning a pet can build a child's self-esteem, improve grades

A pet can be more than a warm, furry or feathered friend that greets you when you return home. Growing up with pets can be good for a child's health and development.

Research has shown that interacting with pets can contribute to a child's self-esteem and selfconfidence. A positive relationship with a pet can help a child learn about responsibility and develop compassion. Children who own pets tend to have more empathy, be more cooperative and be more likely to share.

Most children view pets as special friends and may unburden secrets and cares to pets by talking to them.

Pet ownership has been associated with better grades in school, while interacting with pets may help children develop better social skills, which are also valuable at school.

A recent study at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Wash., found that children who helped care for a puppy in preschool were more popular and better able to understand other students' feelings.

Experts find that owning a pet can help a child develop in several positive and meaningful ways.

There are some notsopositive aspects to growing up with pets, but parents can take a few easy steps to prevent and minimize these consequences.

•Choose a pet that is right for the family, home and lifestyle. Before making a commitment, ask how hard the pet is to care for. How aggressive is the pet? For parents with small children, is the pet used to the roughhousing small children engage in?

•Make sure children are not playing too rough with or abusing the pet. While very young children may not know when behavior is too rough, children should not be allowed to harm animals.

•There are five key parasites that pose a threat to a dog's health and some of them can transmit disease from pets to children. They are heartworms, roundworms, hookworms, whipworms and fleas.

However, with effective parasite preventives, good hygiene and common sense, owners can keep their pets and family safe and healthy. Ask a veterinarian about monthly topical or oral treatments that target flea eggs and larvae, and control common intestinal parasites as well.

This story is provided by North American Precis Syndicate Inc.

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