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Your Pets and Your Pregnancy

Pregnant and share your home with a dog or cat—or maybe a snake, bird, or rat? While some pets pose no concern, there are precautions you should take with others. Here’s the latest advice for pregnant women when it comes to some of the most common types of pets.

Feline Friends

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), toxoplasmosis is the main concern when it comes to pregnancy and cats. The infection can lead to birth defects and miscarriage in pregnant women. Cats can get the infection by eating contaminated raw meat, birds, soil, or mice. Cats then pass the contagious stage of the infection through their feces. The CDC recommends pregnant women take the following precautions:

  • Avoid having the pregnant woman change, clean, or come in contact with the litter box. If there is nobody else to do the job then she should be sure to wear gloves and a mask, and wash hands thoroughly when finished.
  • Keep cats indoors to avoid them possibly eating contaminates.
  • Avoid handling or adopting stray cats.
  • Feed cats only canned or dried commercial cat food. Never give them undercooked or raw meat.
  • Do not bring a new cat into your house that might have been an outdoor cat or might have eaten raw meat.

Canine Companions

According to the American Pregnancy Association (APA), the biggest risk with dogs is the possibility of a large dog jumping on your abdomen while you are lying down or sitting in a chair. They also recommend if you have a dog that does this you should begin training it not to do it right away. While you are pregnant is the right time to start preparing your dog for the new baby. A good start in doing this is to identify behavioral issues, review basic obedience skills, and set routines.

Feathered Friends

The APA reports that if your bird is in good health you most likely will have nothing to worry about during your pregnancy. Upon finding out you are pregnant, you should take the bird to the veterinarian for a health check. Birds can transmit campylobacter, salmonella, chlamydiosis, and some other infections. If possible, give someone else the job of cleaning the birdcage while you are pregnant, and be sure to always wash hands after you touch the bird or the cage.

Snakes, Lizards, Turtles…

The APA advises that pets such as lizards, snakes, iguanas, turtles, and other reptiles can pose a risk to your pregnancy and your child after birth. These pets can carry the salmonella bacteria in their feces, and exposure to it can cause complications with your pregnancy. Young children up to the age of 5 should not be around this type of pet because their immune systems are still developing, and being exposed to the salmonella bacteria can cause health problems. They suggest that all reptiles and amphibian pets be removed from the home during your pregnancy and until your child reaches at least 5 years of age. If you decide to keep these pets, safety precautions to take would include the following:

  • Always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after touching the pet or the cage.
  • Do not allow these pets in the kitchen or near any food preparation areas.
  • Do not give the pets baths or clean their cages in the kitchen sink. The cage should be cleaned outdoors. If you clean it in the bathtub you should use bleach to disinfect the tub afterward.
  • Do not allow the pets to roam freely around the house.

Mice, Gerbils, and Other Rodents

The CDC has issued a report that pregnant women should not come in contact with any type of rodents, pets, or otherwise. Pet rodents would include hamsters, gerbils, and guinea pigs. Although these rodents do not normally carry the lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV), they can transmit the disease, especially if they were obtained from a pet store. LCMV can cause miscarriage and severe birth defects. The CDC warns that pet rodents should be removed from the home during pregnancy or be kept in a separate part of the home and someone else should care for them.

Down on the Farm

If you live on a farm or come in contact with farm animals there are some precautions you should take. Farm animals can carry listeria, salmonella, campylobacter, and cryptosporidium. Avoid participating in silage feeding and handling stillborn animals, and remember to always wash your hands after contact with the animals or their living space.

There are precautions to take with just about any pet you can have. To avoid having problems with your pregnancy it’s best to find out what you need to do and follow the recommendations. When in doubt, consult your physician or veterinarian.

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