This time of year many of us have adopted or been given a special new pet. Whether it is a puppy, kitten, hamster, guinea pig or another kind of animal, for those of you that are pregnant, there are some things you should know to keep your unborn baby safe.
When it comes to puppies or dogs the most important thing to make sure of is it’s well bonded with those already living in the home for the only “problem” with a dog is that they can get jealous of the attention a new born baby’s needs. If the dog is well bonded though he will become the fiercest protector of that child.
Kittens and cats are another story though. Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by a parasite and carried by cats. You must be vigilant in guarding against this. Cats pass this parasite in their stool. Do not clean out the kitty litter if you are pregnant. I will repeat this: Do not clean out the kitty litter if you are pregnant. Have another family member do this. If your cat goes outdoors and lingers in the garden you can get Toxoplasmosis from handling the soil where he or she was. The soil in the garden will pass the parasite from the cat to you. The best thing to do is keep your cat inside or after you garden wash your hands thoroughly.
If you get Toxoplasmosis the symptoms are flu like, including muscle aches, headaches and swollen glands. You will recover but your baby can be born with serious defects or you can lose the pregnancy.
Hamsters, guinea pigs and mice can be popular pets but sometimes they carry a virus called lymphatic choriomeningitis (LCMV). This virus usually comes from breeding facilities, pet stores or even homes if they come in to contact with a wild house mouse carrying the virus. It can be airborne, though it comes from their saliva, urine, feces and/or blood. If you’re changing their nesting area or sweeping their droppings you can get this virus. If you are pregnant be vigilant in staying away. Have someone else do their cleanup and if you handle these animals wash your hands thoroughly and immediately. This infection can cause severe birth defects and/or loss of the pregnancy. Symptoms from this virus include fever, headache, neck stiffness, fatigue, lack of appetite, muscle aches, nausea and vomiting.
So if you have a pet, enjoy it, love it and play with it but please be ever so careful to protect your unborn child by taking the simple precautions I have suggested. For more information: www.cdc.gov and www.marchofdimes.com
Happy New Year! Animal Joy