Safety Around Dogs and Cats - A Safety Discussion with Scott Gibson, MD

Published on March 06, 2015

Safety Around Dogs and Cats - A Safety Discussion with Scott Gibson, MD

Many of us have dogs or cats, or know someone who does. Teaching children how and when to interact with animals and when to stay away is an important safety step.

According to State Farm, there are 4.5 million dog bite victims each year. “We sometimes see children in our emergency department with severe, life-changing injuries from dog bites,” says Scott Gibson, MD, co-medical director for Bronson Trauma & Emergency Center at Bronson Methodist Hospital. “We encourage parents to talk to their children about how to behave around animals, especially dogs.”

The American Veterinary Medical Association provides these tips:

  • Don’t ever pet a dog without asking first for the owner’s permission.
  • Teach children to confidently, quietly walk away if they are confronted by an aggressive dog. If a dog goes after them, they should stand still, then go into a defensive position.
  • Avoid yelling, running, hitting or making sudden movements toward the dog. This will only make the situation worse.
  • Teach children not to bother a dog when it goes to its bed or crate.
  • Educate children at a level they can understand. Small children won’t be able to read body language, so focus on gentle behavior and let them know that dogs have likes and dislikes, too.
  • Let your kids know that if a dog wants to play with them, he’ll come to them on his own terms.
  • Never tease dogs by taking their toys, food or treats. Also, never pull a dog’s ears or tail and never climb on or try to ride him.
  • Discourage children from trying to dress up the dog; some dogs don’t like to be dressed up.

For a complete list of tips, visit:

Cats can sometimes act out, too. The Humane Society notes that if a cat is exhibiting the following behavior or body language, children should be taught to stay away:

  • Backward, sideways or flat ears
  • Back arched, fur standing
  • Tail is thrashing back and forth
  • Eyes are large or dilated


This article is brought to you by Bronson Children’s Hospital, southwest Michigan’s only children’s hospital. For more information about children’s health, visit

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