To many of us, pets are family. While it is considered fine to be around most of these furry family members while pregnant, there are also some safety measures that you need to be careful of. Here are some of the important points and the reasons behind them.
IF YOU HAVE CATS IN THE HOUSE
• You do need to be very careful about cleaning the litter box. If possible, have someone else do it. The reason is, cat faeces (also soil or sand where they have been) may carry Toxoplasma; a parasite transmissible to human. Serious birth defects such as eye and brain damage may occur if you get Toxoplasmosis during pregnancy or even a few months prior to conception. Touching the cat faecal material and accidentally putting the contaminated hand into your mouth could result in infection as the parasite is transmitted via the oral route.
• Toxoplasma does not become infectious for one to five days. So if you are the only one at home who is available to clean the cat’s litter box, do change the litter daily, and remember to use disposable gloves. Remove and throw the disposable gloves after each use and wash both your hands thoroughly with soap and water straight away.
• Stay away from stray cats.
• If you have an outdoor cat or a free-roaming cat that does its business in the garden, you need to take the same precautions during gardening. Wear gloves and wash your hands immediately because you can be exposed to Toxoplasmosis just as easily.
• If you have been around cats for a while, you may have already developed immunity to the disease. A blood test will be able to check this.
• You also can get Toxoplasmosis from eating undercooked meat, especially pork, lamb or deer meat. For this reason, avoid giving your cat undercooked meat.
IF YOU HAVE DOGS IN THE HOUSE
No matter the size and breed, keep yourself safe during pregnancy by taking these steps:
• Make sure your dog is up-to-date with vaccination. Complete them before your baby is born.
• If your dog has bad habits like biting or jumping, train him to stop doing these behaviours before you have your baby.
• Avoid getting bitten by a dog and do not let your dog jump up on your belly.
• Your baby will take much of your time and attention. So if you and your dog are especially close, ask your partner or a family member to spend more time with the pet. Developing relationship with others can help prepare your dog for changes to come once your baby is born.
If you have pet rodents (guinea pigs, mice and hamsters)
• Be extra careful with these pocket pets. They may carry a virus called lymphocytic choriomeningitis, that can cause severe birth defects and miscarriage. The virus can be transmitted from a bite of an infected animal, and by contact with an infected animal’s urine, blood, saliva, droppings or nesting materials. You can also get the virus by breathing in dust or droplets while sweeping up droppings or cleaning out a cage of an infected animal.
• Guinea pigs and hamsters can get infected with the virus from being in direct contact with wild mice at a breeder, in a pet shop, or even in your home. The house mouse (a wild mouse found near and inside houses) is the main source of the virus. These are some tips to help keep you safe from this virus when you are pregnant.
• Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after touching pet rodents.
• Ask help from other family members to care for the pet and clean its cage. The cage cleaning must be performed outside or in a well-ventilated area. Cages must be kept clean and any dirty bedding must be removed.
• Keep the pet rodents in a separate part of your home.
• Avoid contact with wild rodents, and talk to your healthcare provider before using any pest control chemicals in your home.
If you have exotic pets and reptiles (snakes, turtles, tortoises and lizards)
• You need to know that some of these animals can carry microorganisms that infect and cause serious disease to human, such as Salmonellosis (an infection from a bacteria called Salmonella spp.). Most Salmonellosis cases are caused by ingestion of contaminated and raw food sources, such as poultry, meat and eggs. But it can also be carried by reptiles. If you are pregnant, keep away any pet reptile from your home before your baby is born.
As a conclusion, when you are pregnant, bear in mind that not all pets are OK to be around due to the zoonotic or communicable diseases. Pregnant women have to be careful about the kinds of animals they keep in their home and know how to handle and care for them safely.
Written by Dr. Cecilia Boklin
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine | Kinabalu Animal Clinic
Tel: 088 – 385 804 Address: Lot 6, Lorong Durian 3 Kian Yap Ind. Estate, 88450 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.
For more information about caring for your pets during pregnancy, kindly contact Dr. Cecilia Boklin at Kinabalu Animal Clinic. To book an appointment for your pets, visit www.kinabaluvet.com
Parents Avenue’s Panel of Animal Medical Experts