“What's that, Lassie? Timmy's in the well?” Dogs have an uncanny ability to protect children from harm. Diabetic alert dogs know when a child with type 1 diabetes is headed for a dangerously low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) -- and the canine detectives are right 90 percent of the time.
But when it comes to kids and pets, the benefits don't stop there: Walking a dog daily increases physical activity, and kids need more of that than they are getting! PLUS, the four-footed companion offers affection and teaches compassion and responsibility.
Mom and Dad, if you fear you'll end up taking care of your child's furry friend, guess what that canine can do for you? Decrease blood pressure, LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
But it's not a dog's world exclusively: Many kinds of animals provide companionship and affection -- and help a child get past the me-me-me stage of development. Pet tips for today?
--Choose an age-appropriate pet. Age 5 or younger? No reptiles! They carry bacteria that may make kids sick. Start with goldfish or hamsters. And children under age 10 will need help caring for a dog or cat.
--Teach your child to wash his or her hands when he or she touches an animal, its cage or food and water dishes.
--With any pet, use that relationship to talk to your child about respect for other living things and reproduction, birth, illnesses, accidents, death and bereavement.
--And enjoy watching your child forge a special bond with a pet that makes memories for a lifetime.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Medical Officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. For more information go to www.RealAge.com.