Taking on an additional care role for a pet with an unknown history while caring for your own child may require you to have eyes in the back of your head and is not generally recommended.


Around 13,000 people each year attend hospital emergency departments in Australia for dog bite injuries, according to the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne.  Children and dogs always need 100% supervision. Children under the age of five are most at risk, and are often bitten on the head, face and neck.

1. Risk of Added Stress and Dog Bites

There are several possible reasons why a dog may bite a child:

  • The dog is senior and is not used to the noise that young children can typically make such as crying, screaming or shrieking and has no patience for the actions of a child.

  • The child has done something to provoke or frighten the dog (e.g., hugging the dog, moving into the dog's space, leaning or stepping over the dog, trying to take something from the dog).

  • The dog is protecting a possession, food or water dish or puppies.
  • The dog is protecting a resting place.
  • The dog is protecting its owner or the owner's property.

  • The dog is injured or sick.
  • The child has hurt or startled it by stepping on it, poking it or pulling its fur, tail or ears.

  • The dog has not learned bite inhibition and bites hard by accident when the child offers food or a toy to the dog.
  • The child and dog are engaging in rough play and the dog gets overly excited.

  • The dog views the child as a prey item because the child is running and/or screaming near the dog or riding a bicycle or otherwise moving past the dog.
  • The dog is of a herding breed and nips while trying to "herd" the children. 

2. Potential for a child to become infected by a disease a pet has

Unfortunately, yes, it’s possible for pets to transfer disease to their owners. While immune systems can be boosted by the presence of a pet, some diseases can also be passed along.

These are known as zoonotic diseases. Some of the more common include:

  1. Ringworm
  2. Tapeworm
  3. Salmonella
  4. Rabies

Don’t fret too much though. Most of these conditions are rare – and many can be treated with preventative vaccines.

3. Risk for the child to develop an allergic reaction to flea bites

Small children or people who are allergic may have a bad reaction. This could include itching & swelling. The skin may become irritated and painful around the bite, and sometimes hives and a rash will appear. Scratching the bite can cause a secondary infection.  You can usually control itching by applying cool compresses and hydrocortisone cream to the flea bites. Discourage your child from scratching because this can introduce bacteria to the site and lead to infection, which will need medical treatment. Seek veterinary advice for treating your home with safe solutions that are not poisonous to children or pets.

We strongly recommend taking our Online Pet Sitting Course, created with the help of RSPCA Senior Vets