Pets and other animals during pregnancy
Dogs and cats
When it comes to pets, dogs and cats are some of the most popular. You don't have to worry about finding your beloved dog or cat a new home if you're pregnant. But you do need to keep yourself and your unborn baby safe from any potential hazards.
Known as man's best friend, a dog can be a wonderful addition to a home. For the most part, there's no reason your dog can't continue to be part of the family when you're expecting. Take these extra steps during pregnancy:
- Be sure that your dog doesn't jump on your belly while you're sitting or lying down.
- If your puppy has picked up some bad habits, like biting or pouncing, use this time to break him of these habits before the baby arrives.
- Before bringing your new baby home, make sure your dog is up-to-date with vaccinations.
- If you and your dog are especially close, ask your partner or another family member to spend more time with him. Because your new baby will take much of your time and affection, having your dog develop a closer relationship with other household members can help prepare him for the changes that will come once the baby is home.
Cats are another great family pet. But pregnant women need to be careful of toxoplasmosis when handling their cat.
- Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by a parasite. It can be carried by cats.
- Cats pass this parasite in their feces (stool).
- You can get toxoplasmosis by cleaning kitty litter or touching dirt where cats might have been, including garden soil.
- You can also get toxoplasmosis from eating undercooked meat, especially pork, lamb or deer meat.
Many people who get toxoplasmosis never have any symptoms. But this illness can cause serious complications in pregnancy, such as birth defects or even loss of the pregnancy. If a pregnant mom becomes infected with toxoplasmosis for the first time just before or during pregnancy, she has a 1 in 2 chance of passing the illness to her baby.
Toxoplasmosis symptoms include:
- Muscle aches
- Swollen glands
- Flu-like symptoms (fever, fatigue, sore throat)
Pregnant women can lower their chance of getting toxoplasmosis by:
- Asking a family member who isn't pregnant to clean out the litter box every day
- Keeping cats indoors
- Staying away from stray cats
- Washing hands thoroughly with running water and soap after coming in contact with cat's stool or after gardening
- Covering the children's sandbox to stop cats from using it as a litter box
- Avoiding undercooked meat
- Washing kitchen utensils and counters thoroughly
Hamsters, guinea pigs and mice
Rodents, such as mice, hamsters and guinea pigs, are popular pets in many homes. But women who are pregnant or who plan to become pregnant should be very careful with rodents. These animals may carry a virus called lymphocytic choriomeningitis (LCMV).
The house mouse, a wild rodent found near and in homes, is the main source of the virus. Pet rodents like hamsters and guinea pigs can become infected with LCMV after being in contact with wild rodents at a breeding facility, pet store or home.
People can get LCMV 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. Examples: while sweeping up mouse droppings or cleaning out the hamster cage.
Pregnant women who get LCMV can pass the infection to their unborn baby.
LCMV can cause severe birth defects or loss of pregnancy.
LCMV symptoms include:
Lack of appetite
Pregnant moms can lower their chance of getting LCMV by:
- Keeping pet rodents in a separate part of the home
- Asking another family member to care for the pet and clean its cage
- Washing hands with soap and water after handling pet rodents
- Keeping rodent cages clean and free of soiled bedding
- Cleaning the cage in a well-ventilated area or outside
- Keeping pet rodents away from your face
- Avoiding contact with wild rodents
- If a house has rats or mice, taking care of the problem quickly with either mouse traps or calling a professional pest control company (talk to your health care provider before using any pest control chemicals in your home)
If you have children, especially under the age of 5:
- Be sure an adult closely watches them when they are around pet rodents.
- No one should kiss pet rodents or hold them close to the face.
- Anyone who plays with the animals or cleans their cages or bedding should wash their hands afterwards.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has more information, including how to safely handle pet rodents and clean cages.
Reptiles and exotic pets
Some families have reptiles for household pets. These animals include lizards, snakes and turtles. Some of these animals can carry germs that make people sick. One illness they carry is salmonellosis (salmonella infection).
Salmonella infection is a bacterial disease. Most salmonella infections come from food sources, such as poultry, meat and eggs. But salmonella infection can be linked to reptiles.
Even if a pet reptile has a negative test for salmonella, it doesn't mean the animal is not infected with the bacteria. Instead, it could mean that the animal was just not shedding salmonella on the day it was tested.
Pregnant women and children under age 5 should be especially careful of salmonella. They are at increased risk of infection. A family expecting a child should remove any pet reptile from the home before the infant arrives.
Salmonella symptoms include:
- Abdominal pains
- Muscle aches
Pregnant moms can lower their chance of getting salmonella by:
- Staying away from reptiles
- Washing hands with soap and water after coming in contact with reptiles or animal stool
- Keeping reptiles out of the kitchen and other food preparation areas, including sinks
- Cleaning surfaces that have been touched by reptiles
- Avoiding undercooked food
The CDC has more information on diseases from reptiles, including turtles. If you have any additional questions or concerns about the safety of your pet during your pregnancy, talk to your health provider.
Things to avoid
- Changing cat litter
- Hot baths, hot tubs and saunas
- Lead exposure from old pipes and faucets
- Mercury from broken bulbs and thermometers
- Pesticides and certain chemicals (check labels)