All for Life
“Pregnancy & Pets. What to expect?” By Consultant Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Dr Shilpa Sinha
How can pet animals be dangerous in pregnancy?
Many people consider pets as members of their families. But pets can carry diseases that can be dangerous during pregnancy. They bring diseases that can be dangerous to Mother and the foetus.
What types of pet animals can prove to be dangerous to the mother and the baby?
- Cats – cat faeces can carry a parasite that cause toxoplasmosis, an infection that can spread to human. In pregnancy it crosses the placenta and can harm the unborn baby.
- Rodents like hamsters, guinea pigs, mice can bring a virus called Lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) that leads to an infection that can cause severe birth defects and miscarriages.
- Snakes, Turtles, Lizards and other exotic pets can sometimes carry germs called Salmonella.
- Dogs – overall don’t pose much of a health risk. But safety should be maintained.
What are the health related problems that can arise when mother is in contact with pet animals?
This is an infection often carried by cats that’s caused by a parasite Toxoplasma Gondii. Cats pass this parasite in their faeces and you can get it by cleaning cat litters or touching dirt like garden soil where cats may have been. You can also get toxoplasmosis from eating undercooked meat , especially pork, lamb, or deer meat.
Symptoms may be:-
Fever, swollen lymph nodes especially in the neck, headache, muscle aches and pain, sore throat If foetus is infected, symptoms can be mild or serious. Most newborns with congenital toxoplasmosis may appear normal at birth but can develop sign and symptoms as they age. It is particularly important to check for involvement in their brain and eyes. Manifestations, if present may be prematurity, jaundice, intrauterine growth restriction, hepatosplenomegaly, myocarditis, pneumonitis, rash, chorion retinitis ,hydrocephalus, intracranial calcifications, seizures, microcephaly.
You can get this virus from bites of infected rodent animals. By touching an infected animal’s urine, blood, saliva, droppings or nesting materials. By breathing in dust or droplets when sweeping up droppings or cleaning out a cage.
Signs and symptoms- fever, headache, fatigue, muscle aches, nausea and vomiting, not being hungry.
Reptiles may carry germs salmonella. Most salmonella infection comes from food sources such as poultry, meat and eggs. But they are also linked to reptiles. Sign and symptoms – cramps in stomach, bloody stool, diarrhea, vomiting, headache, chills.
What are the precautions to be taken?
- A) Cats
- Ask a family member who is not pregnant to clean out the litter box every day
- Keep your cat inside
- Stay away from stray cats
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after touching cat faeces or after gardening.
- Don’t feed your cat undercooked meat
- B) Dogs
- Don’t let your dog jump up on your belly -if your dog has habits like biting or jumping, train him to stop doing these things before delivery.
- Make sure your dog is up to date with vaccinations. Do this before delivery
- If your dog is close to you, make sure it spends more time with other family member or your partner to prepare him for changes to come once the baby is born.
- C) LCMV
- Keep pet rodents in s separate part of your house
- Wash your hands with soap and weather after touching pet rodents
- Ask other family members to clean their cage
- Keep pet rodents away from the face
- Avoid contact with wild rodents.
What precautions to be taken after delivery?
- Keep baby and pets apart for most of the time especially when the baby is sleeping. Never let them share the bed of the baby.
- Always introduce your pets slowly to the baby. Dogs are often jealous of a new born baby. Try to give it enough attention so that it feels that you still care.
- Cats usually do not get jealous but they are attached to the warmth of a baby’s cot. If a child is teasing or hurting them they might scratch or bite.
- If you have gardens, keep pet area separate and use a pooper scooper before letting your baby play in the garden.
How to make most of the pregnancy while still taking care of the pets?
Take all precautions to avoid infection.
Take steps to prepare the pets for the arrival of the baby.