Why Pet Food Is a Hidden Danger to Kids

A young boy feeding his pet puppies.
Photo by Javier Pierini/Getty Images

Parents with young kids in their home often work hard to get things childproofed, with baby gates on stairs, locks on cabinets, and covers on electrical outlets. But if you have a pet in the home, you may be overlooking a common hidden danger to your child's health and safety.

Even if you already work to prevent dog bites, cat bites, and dog allergies, many parents forget that dry pet food is a choking hazard to their infants, toddlers, and preschool-age children. Additionally, the pet's water bowl is also a drowning risk, as it only takes 2 inches of water for a young child to drown.

The water only needs to cover the child's nose and mouth to pose a risk. Plus, a child can fall face first into the water bowl and not be able to get their head out. Below, we review how to keep you child safe.

Choking Hazard

Dry pet food, especially dog food, is a choking hazard for young children. Like coins, magnets, hard candy, and toys with small parts, dry pet food should be kept away from infants, toddlers, and younger preschool-age children.

That means simply putting a bowl on the floor filled with pet food would not be a good idea since your child could easily get to it. Instead, feed your pet in a childproofed room of the house.

Pet Food Recalls

In addition to the choking hazard of dry pet food, there is a more hidden hazard that parents may not be aware of—any pet food recalls due to contamination with Salmonella or other bacteria. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, raw pet foods can make people sick due to Salmonella and Listeria contamination.

The CDC recommends that children under the age of 5 should not touch or eat raw pet food and adults and older kids should wash their hands thoroughly after handling these products.

Of course, that is not to say that people are getting sick because of actually eating pet food. The source of contamination is likely just touching the contaminated pet food and then eating something else before washing their hands or simply putting their fingers in their mouth. Or your pet could have become sick from eating the contaminated food and then you got sick from touching your pet.

Pet Food Safety

Parents should take steps to keep their family safe when feeding their pets, including:

  • Avoid putting pet food and feeding dishes in the kitchen where you prepare food for the family
  • Checking the floor for leftover pet food after your dog or cat eats
  • Not leaving pet food unattended where a young child can get to it
  • Washing their hands after handling pet food and their pet's feeding dish

Also, to keep both your family and pet safe, monitor the FDA for recalls and safety alerts about pet food.

My Baby Ate Dog Food

So what should you do if your infant or toddler eats dog food or cat food?

Since one of the biggest hazards is choking, you should first make sure that your child is breathing well without any difficulty. Seek immediate medical attention if you think he might be choking, which most likely includes calling 911.

Once you have reassured yourself that your child isn't choking, you have a few options. You could:

  • Call Poison Control for extra advice
  • Call your pediatrician
  • Make sure the dog food wasn't involved in a recall
  • Observe your child for symptoms and see your pediatrician if your child develops vomiting, diarrhea, or a stomachache, etc.

And work to make sure it doesn't happen again by following some of the pet food safety rules above.

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Article Sources
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  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Choking Prevention. Updated November 21, 2015.

  2. American Academy of Pediatrics. Water safety.

  3.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pet Food Safety. Updated September 27, 2017.

  4. American Academy of Pediatrics. Responding to a Choking Emergency. Updated November 21, 2015.

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