Women's Healthcare Topics

Does Your Pet Poses a Risk

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

Dogs and Pregnancy

If you're pregnant and the proud "parent" of an adorable pooch or frisky kitty, you may be curious to know whether your pet poses any risk to you during pregnancy. Don't worry - taking your little "fur baby" to the pound is not necessary.

In general, pets are safe to be around during pregnancy, but you do have to take certain precautions, depending on the type of pet that you have.

Dogs typically do not pose any health risks or your baby. The only concern that you should have about owning a dog during pregnancy is the possibility of a medium or large dog jumping on your abdomen when you're sitting or lying down. If your larger dog has a habit of jumping, you will want to train him not to do that.

Interestingly, it's not uncommon for dogs to become more over-protective of their pregnant owners. Some dogs will bark, growl, and even block doors with their bodies to prevent guests from entering the same room as their pregnant owner. This is actually endearing to some women, but if you don't like this behavior, you attempt to dissuade your dog from these actions.

During your pregnancy, it's important to train your dog to listen to you. Obedience training is critical. You don't want to have an unruly dog in the house, especially when you have a newborn baby to care for.

Learn which pets poses a risk to you during pregnancy.

You should also your pooch ready for the baby by familiarizing your dog to "baby smells." You can do this by sprinkling baby power on a baby blanket, wrapping the blanket around a baby doll, and carrying it around the house like you would with a real baby. Next, you'll want to place the blanket down and allow your dog to sniff it and become familiar with this common baby scent.

You can also get your dog prepared for the baby's arrival by playing a CD of baby sounds. A variety of companies produce albums called "Baby Sounds for Pets" and "Preparing Fido," which has recordings of babies crying, laughing, cooing, gurgling, and other common baby sounds.

Cats in the House

The main concern of having cats in the house when you're pregnant is toxoplasmosis - a parasitic infection that can cause mild or severe birth defects, stillbirth, and miscarriage. Cats can get toxoplasmosis from eating contaminated meats or consuming infected soil.

They pass the infection through their feces. You can become infected with the parasite if you accidently ingest the parasites by touching your mouth after cleaning a litter box. (You can also get toxoplasmosis from eating undercooked meats – so avoid these foods during pregnancy.)

To protect yourself from getting toxoplasmosis from your cat, you should avoid changing your cat's litter box. Get your husband or partner to do this task for you. If you don't have the luxury of a willing partner, you may want to consider buying an automatic litter box that you only have to change once a month, or once every few weeks. When you change your litter box, be sure to wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.

Another protective measure you can take is to keep your cats indoors. This greatly reduces your cat's risk of eating infected meats. You should also only feed your cat commercial cat food. Do not feed them undercooked or raw meat.

While even the thought of getting toxoplasmosis may scare you, your risk is minimal. Getting rid of your feline friend is not necessary, especially if your cat is an indoor cat. It's typically only cats that hunt and eat rodents, and cats that are fed a raw diet by their owners, that are at risk for this disease.

Guinea Pigs, Hamsters, and Mice as Pets

While guinea pigs, hamsters, and mice are not as popular as dogs and cats, they are nonetheless popular pets in many households. Pregnant women and women who are planning to conceive, should be careful around these types of pets. They may carry a virus called lymphocytic choriomeningitis (LCMV), which can cause birth defects in your baby and pregnancy loss.

The common house mouse is the main source of the LCMV virus. Pet rodents, such as hamsters and guinea pigs, can become infected with this virus if they make contact with infected mice at their breeding facility, pet store, and even in your home. You can become infected with the LCMV virus from your pet rodent's urine, blood, droppings, saliva, and nesting materials. You can also become infected if you breathe in dust or droplets that contain the virus.

You can lower your risk of getting LCMV by removing these pets from your home during pregnancy, or by keeping the pet rodents in another area of your home. You should also carefully and religiously wash your hands with soap and water after handling these pets.

If you have a problem with rats or mice in your house, take care of the problem right away. You may want to place down mousetraps or call your pest control company.

What about Other Pets?

Unfortunately, if you have other non-traditional pets - such as snakes, turtles, iguanas, frogs, and other amphibians and reptiles - you should probably remove them from your home during pregnancy. The feces of these animals can carry the salmonella bacteria. Salmonella can cause you to have food poisoning, which can sometimes cause preterm labor and even miscarriage (a pregnancy loss). You will want to avoid any risk of salmonella poisoning if possible.

You should avoid having reptiles and amphibians in your home until your child is in elementary school. The immune systems of children under age 5 are developing, and any exposure to reptile or amphibian feces can put your baby's health at risk.


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