Touching Pets While You're Pregnant
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As soon as you learn you're pregnant, you will most likely make a series of lifestyle changes to give your unborn baby the best start. These might include banning booze, scrapping cigarettes and thinking carefully about what you eat. However, the one factor that many women can overlook is the need to take care over any contact with animals, including domestic pets.
Cats and dogs are popular pets and many people consider them part of the family. Undoubtedly, much consideration will have been given about how to integrate the pet into the new family dynamics once the baby arrives, but there will probably have been less thought about the problems pets can cause during pregnancy.
The truth about cats and dogs
Even little dogs can be heavy if they jump on you and it's important to avoid any sudden weight pounding onto your tummy. It's therefore essential that you strongly discourage any leaping around; this will also be a huge help once the baby arrives. Although you need to teach your dog to be gentle around you if they aren't already, surprisingly enough it's cats that can cause the real problem.
Toxoplasmosis is a parasite infection that can be carried and spread by cats and if passed onto a pregnant woman it can cause either miscarriage or serious birth defects. If the mother catches the disease during pregnancy she has a 50/50 chance that her unborn baby will become infected. The disease is passed on through a cat's faeces but can be transmitted by touching soil or even cat litter.
Symptoms include flu-like feelings such as fatigue, sore throat and muscular aches as well as swollen glands. To avoid contracting the disease pregnant women should make sure another family member cleans out any litter trays and there is no contact with stray cats. Gloves should be worn whilst gardening to prevent unwittingly picking up the disease from soil and any sandboxes for children should be left covered at all times, unless the children are in there of course!
How to handle rodents
Of course, cats and dogs are not the only pets kept at home. Small animals such as hamsters, guinea pigs, mice and even rats are very popular, especially in households with older children. Unfortunately, the little critters can carry a disease known as LCMV - lymphocytic choriomeningitis.
LCMV is primarily spread by wild rodents that pets can come into contact with either at the breeder's home, in pet stores or even in the home. The disease is very contagious and is spread by the infected animal's blood, saliva, droppings, urine and nesting material and can even be breathed in via dust or droplets in the air. For this reason, pregnant women should avoid cleaning out or sweeping up cages for any of these small pets as contracting the disease can also result in birth defects or the loss of the baby. Avoiding wild rodents is a must, but for those who are attached to their furry little pets remember that contact between the face and the animal should be avoided at all costs and hands should be washed vigorously after handling.
Lizards, snakes and other tropical household members
The trend for exotic pets has climbed in recent years and it is not uncommon to find reptiles being kept as a family pet. Unfortunately, while this is OK in a household without young children, experts recommend they are not kept in a home with pregnant women and children under the age of 5. This is because they can transmit a number of diseases, in particular, salmonellosis (infection with salmonella).
The pet can be tested for the bacteria, but a negative result does not guarantee they are free from infection; it could simply mean the infection was not being shed on the day of testing. For those that love their scaly housemates, there's no getting around this one as, unfortunately, the advice is that reptiles should be avoided at all costs.
Beware of cute things
As an aside, ducklings and chicks are also common causes of salmonella infection so pregnant women should steer clear of these. Other cute and fluffy things which should be avoided are lambs. During lambing season ewes can carry a number of diseases which are potentially fatal to an unborn baby. These include listeria, chlamydiosos and toxoplasmosis. As well as not touching the animals, pregnant women should refrain from touching any shoes, clothing or equipment that has come into contact with the animals.
While animals play an important role in many people's lives, when a woman is pregnant she has to take special care because diseases which could prove fatal to a baby can very easily be passed on. Those raging hormones may mean that the stray kitten looks super cuddly, but it's best to steer clear of any strange animals and take every precaution possible with family pets.