Pets are much more than just animals we keep in our houses. Many, if not all pet owners consider their pets as a part of the family. Quite rightly so too, for animals have every right to feel accepted, loved and have their presence acknowledged. However, pregnant women need to be a little more wary when it comes to animals, pets included, particularly how to handle them during the duration of their pregnancy.
Dogs and cats
Dogs and cats are some of the most popular house pets and they are faithful companions to countless families. Fortunately, being pregnant does not mean you have to send them away for the next nine months. However, you do need to know of the potential hazards of having dogs and cats close by to you when you’re pregnant and how to keep yourself and your baby safe and in good health.
Man’s best friend – A dog is a truly a joy to have as a pet and many can testify to it. If you are fortunate enough to have one of these furry creatures as a pet in your home, there is absolutely no reason it can’t carry on to be part of your happy family even when you are pregnant. All you need to do is to take heed of the following:
- Train your dog so that it doesn’t jump on your belly at anytime. Your furry friend might have to get used to it, especially if before this jumping on you while you’re sitting or lying down has been no big deal.
- Some dogs, especially puppies, love to bite, gnaw and pounce on everything at sight. As harmless as this sounds, it would be best if you take the time to wean your little pup off these habits before your baby arrives.
- If all this time your dog has been especially close to you, ask your partner or another family member to spend more time with him/her. This is because your new baby will be taking much of your time and affection. This will affect your pet if he/she is not ready for it. Allowing your dog develop a closer relationship with other household members can help prepare him/her for the inevitable.
- Before your baby comes, make sure your dog has received all relevant vaccinations.
Cats are another popular choice for a house pet. However, if you are a pregnant cat owner, you have to be aware of the threat of toxoplasmosis, an infection caused by single celled parasites called Toxoplasma gondii. It is commonly carried by cats via their stools.
You can get toxoplasmosis by cleaning kitty litter or by touching soil where cats have passed stools. For the duration of your pregnancy, it would be best to get someone else to see to kitty’s litter box. Also, if you are an avid gardener, practice extreme caution in case kitty has passed stools in the soil you use for gardening.
Toxoplasmosis can have grave consequences if contacted by pregnant women and may cause serious complications including birth defects and even miscarriages. In the event where a pregnant mum becomes infected with toxoplasmosis, there is a 50% chance of passing the illness to her baby.
If you are a pregnant cat owner, consult your doctor at once if you experience any of the following:
- Muscle aches
- Swollen glands
- Flu-like symptoms (fever, fatigue, sore throat)
If you are pregnant, you can lower your chance of getting toxoplasmosis by keeping your cat or cats indoors and also wash your hands thoroughly with running water and soap after coming in contact with cat’s stool or after gardening. Also, do stay well away from stray cats.
Hamsters, guinea pigs and mice
Rodents, such as hamsters and guinea pigs (and sometimes even mice!), are popular as pets. How can they not be, being as cute as buttons! However, if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, it is essential that you practice extreme caution with pet rodents. These cuddly, cute mammals may be carrying a virus called lymphocytic choriomeningitis (LCMV).
Typically, the main source of the virus is the house mouse, a wild rodent found inside and outside of homes. Pet rodents like hamsters and guinea pigs can become infected with LCMV after being in contact with wild rodents either at home, at a breeding facility or even at the pet store.
There are several ways one can get infected with LCMV, including through contact with a rodent’s urine, blood, saliva, droppings or nesting materials. The infection can also spread when a person breathes in dust or droplets that have LCMV, for example while cleaning and up-keeping an infected pet hamster’s cage.
Pregnant women who get LCMV can pass the infection to their unborn baby. LCMV is not to be taken lightly as it is capable of causing severe birth defects or loss of pregnancy.
LCMV symptoms to watch out for if you have pet rodents:
- Neck stiffness
- Lack of appetite
- Muscle aches
Pregnant pet-lovers need not send their beloved furry friends away, Instead they can lower their chances of getting LCMV by keeping pet rodents in a separate part of the home and employing the help of another family member to care for the pet and clean its cage for the time being.
It is extremely important though to avoid contact with wild rodents. If you know your house has rats or mice, taking care of the problem immediately – with either mouse traps or calling a professional pest control company. However, do talk to your doctor before using any pest control chemicals in your home.
Snakes lizards and other exotic pets
While tortoises might be quite common as reptilian pets, it is not unheard of to own snakes, iguanas and lizards. The down part of this is, some, if not all of these animals naturally carry germs that can make people sick. One dangerous illness to be contracted through reptiles is salmonellosis (salmonella infection).
Salmonella infection is a bacterial disease mainly linked to food sources, such as poultry, meat and eggs. However, salmonella has also been linked to reptiles.
Sidebar: Why testing might not help Even if a pet reptile has been tested negative for salmonella, it doesn’t mean the animal is bacteria-free. It could just mean that the reptile was not shedding salmonella on the day it was tested.
Consult your doctor at once if you own a pet reptile and have the following symptoms:
- Abdominal pains
- Muscle aches
The best way a pregnant mum can lower her chance of getting salmonella is by staying away from her pet reptile for the time being. Or else, do wash your hands with soap and water after coming in contact with reptiles stool. At all costs, do keep your reptilian friends out of the kitchen and other food preparation areas – no giving them a wash in the kitchen sink! Thoroughly clean and disinfect surfaces that your pet has been on.