Bringing home baby

| 22 Feb 2012 | 08:34

Veterinarians offer help in smoothing the way for households that have pets, By Mark J. Yablonsky If bringing home your first newborn presents some new challenges for you and your spouse, chances are your furry, four-legged “child” may find it a bit of a dilemma, too. After all, someone who has literally been “top dog” must learn quickly to adapt to the newcomer in the household. But fear not. A home with both a new baby and an-already established pet truly can merge into one happy family. That’s the advice of area veterinarians who offer some simple, yet clear, tips. Dr. Don Costlow, owner of the Newton Veterinary Hospital, is a father of two and a dog-owner who, in addition to running a 24-hour emergency clinic, also takes time to offer informal seminars to expectant parents who have pets at home. “We try to change things as much as possible before the baby arrives, just to get the pet used to it ahead of time,” explained Costlow. “Many people tell me the dog has been the baby, and then the baby arrives. The dog has been getting all of the attention and now the baby arrives, and that’s going to change dramatically.” Helpful tips Costlow and other local veterinarians advise, that planning ahead is paramount to setting a proper environment for your pet to take his place within the new family. Start by changing activities you normally do with your dog, from walking the dog at a different time, to things as intricate as setting up a nursery ahead of time — replete with crib, swing and a play doll — just to help get your pet acclimated to the arrival of your newborn. Hamburg resident Eric Geisendorfer’s wife Krista consulted Costlow prior to the birth of their first human child. The Geisendorfers already are the proud owners of Libby, a very affectionate 5-year-old lab/border collie mix. Their baby, Matthew Scott Geisendorfer, was born May 13. “Dr. Costlow was very knowledgeable, not only about pet behavior, but also about human interaction in regards to introducing infants to an existing pet,” Geisendorfer said. “We both left the class with confidence that our new baby will be welcomed by our dog, by following Dr. Costlow’s directions.” Anxiety is not just for people “Most of the problems people have when they bring a newborn home is due to anxiety on the part of the pet because of changes in their routine,” said Dr. Jeryl Spencer, one of three veterinarians at the Vernon Veterinary Hospital. “The pet doesn’t understand what’s going on and there are changes in their schedule, their routine, how you’re able to interact with the pet once the baby comes home. I think that cats are probably a little easier to transition, in my experience.” Indeed, cats, known for their independence, don’t have to be walked. But, when babies get older and begin crawling and then walking, they may get interested in the pet food and water dishes. That’s just another area where parents have to “child-proof” the home. Pets and children will be sharing space, but parents don’t have to fear conflicts. “I was worried,” conceded Kathy Goritski, the office manager/head nurse at the Jefferson-based Lake Hopatcong Animal Clinic. As the mother of two older children, she has experience. “But when you’re bringing a baby home, the pet isn’t threatened, and I think the pet actually likes having someone else around. My dog absolutely loved the fact that (son) Jason became mobile. You bring home this little itty-bitty baby, it’s not a threat to them. It’s when you already have kids and you get a dog that isn’t a puppy, that’s when you have to be careful. If you already have a kid at home, get a kitten, get a puppy, because you never know how an older dog is going to react.”