If you work with or live with animals, there are some precautions you should take when you are pregnant. This is because all animals have germs, and they can transmit illnesses to you and possibly to your unborn baby and young children.
No matter what kind of animal(s) you have, here are some tips to apply to any animal or pet, especially when you are pregnant:
- Follow good hand hygiene practices to reduce the chances of being infected.
- Do not allow your pet to be in contact with any food surfaces, or where you wash or store your dishes.
- Also, avoid kissing your pets or allowing them to “kiss” you on the face.
- Avoid cleaning pet supplies and cages in your kitchen sink. If you use the tub to clean anything, disinfect afterwards.
In what follows, you will learn about the risks posed by specific animals or pets, and what precautions you should take with each of them.
- Ensure that your dog’s vaccinations are current.
- Make sure that your dog has been dewormed.
- Ensure that your dog does not jump on your abdomen when you are pregnant.
- Do not touch your dog’s feces.
- Toxoplasmosis is the most common infection that can occur. You get it from coming in contact with a parasite in your cat’s feces.
- Cats can contract it after eating infected rodents, hence a good reason to have only indoor cats. They can also contract it before they are born, if the mother cat is exposed to it.
- You can have your cat tested by your veterinarian to determine if he has been exposed to the bacteria.
- Infection with toxoplasmosis can result in miscarriages, and birth defects such as blindness.
- You do not need to get rid of your cat. You can still pet and enjoy your cat. Just make sure that someone else in your household cleans the cat’s litter box. \
- If you do have to clean the litter box, make sure that you wear gloves to avoid contact with the feces. Then wash the gloves (or use disposables) and your hands thoroughly afterwards.
- Toxoplasmosis can also be transmitted through soil, so be sure to wear gloves if you are gardening. Also, be sure to wash your hands well after you are done gardening.
- You may want to cover your other children’s outdoor sandbox to ensure outdoor cats cannot use it as a litter box.
- Birds can transmit infections such as salmonella and other germs.
- Ask someone else to clean your bird’s cage.
4. Guinea Pigs, Hamsters, and Other Rodents
- These pets can become infected with lymphocytic choriomeningitis (LCMV), when they are at breeding facilities or at the pet store. The common house mouse carries this same virus.
- It is a threat to pregnant mothers, as it can result in miscarriages and various birth defects. In order to reduce the risk, it is best to stay away from rodents of any kind – domestic pets or wild. This is because the virus can be transmitted via the feces, urine, saliva, and nesting materials of these animals.
- If you have a pet rodent, be sure that you do not change its cage. In addition, keep it in an entirely separate section of your home where you do not spend time.
5. Amphibians and Reptiles
- These include salamanders, frogs, snakes, lizards, turtles, etc. Unfortunately, these are not safe pets to have during pregnancy or the first five years of your child’s life when your child’s immune system is still developing.
- They carry risk of infection from salmonella, which they carry on their skin and can be passed in their feces.
- In the past, pet constrictor snakes have killed unattended babies and young children.
- If you own cattle, you likely own a ranch or a hobby farm. Cattle can carry the E.coli (Escherichia coli) bacteria, which is passed through their feces.
- Ensure you wash your hands thoroughly after being in contact with cattle. Also, be sure to wash fruits and vegetables well, as they may have been exposed to contaminated soil. During pregnancy, you may want to avoid drinking well water, if there is any risk that runoff from your farm animals has contaminated your well.
In summary, you must use common sense when handling any animals during your pregnancy. Some animals such as amphibians and reptiles pose more risk. By making wise decisions now, you can ensure that you increase the chances of having a healthy baby.