Many people think of their pets as members of their families because these animals can bring much fun and joy to the household dynamic. However, pregnant women need to be cautious about the kind of animals they keep in their home, and particularly, how to handle them during pregnancy.
According to experts, the number of human pregnancies affected by contact with an infected animal is extremely low. Despite this low value, however, it is imperative that pregnant women are aware of the potential risks that can result from association with certain pets.
Pregnancy and cats
Cats are another great family pet. However, pregnant women need to be careful of toxoplasmosis when handling their cat.
Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by Toxoplasma gondii, a small single-celled protozoan. The complete life cycle of toxoplasmosis occurs only in cats. And cats become infected by preying on infected birds and rodents.
This disease is most dangerous if a woman becomes newly infected during the third trimester of pregnancy, as it may cause severe foetal abnormalities, and severe cases may result in an abortion. This is why obstetricians suggest that pregnant women should not change cat litter boxes.
Pregnant women can lower their chances of contacting toxoplasmosis by asking a family member who is not pregnant to clean out the litter box every day. They are also advised to keep cats indoors, avoid adopting or handling stray cats, and washing hands thoroughly with running water and antiseptic soap after coming in contact with cat’s stool.
Pregnancy and pet birds
Pet birds can carry some bacteria such as Campylobacter and Salmonella, in their faeces. Pregnant women who own parrots, pigeons, parakeets, duck, hens or budgerigars should also be aware of a disease known as Psittacosis. This disease is also known as parrot’s fever and it is caused by a bacterium known as Chlamydia psittaci. In humans, the symptoms of this disease range from unapparent illness to systemic illness with severe pneumonia. In infected pregnant women, there is an increased risk of miscarriage.
To avoid psittacosis, pregnant women should not clean bird cages, and are advised to avoid contact with faeces of birds. Strict handwashing precautions are also necessary after coming in contact with birds, or their faeces.
Pregnancy and dogs
Dogs are known as man’s best friend. They can be a wonderful addition to a home. According to a research carried out at the University of Liverpool, pregnant women who own dogs are more likely to be active than those who do not. The researchers also found out that dog walking is a low-risk, low-intensity exercise that is perfect for women who want to increase their activity level and prevent excessive weight gain during pregnancy.
Despite these benefits, though, caution should be taken when you engage your dog in a physical exercise if you are pregnant. You should ensure that your dog does not jump on your belly while you are sitting or lying down.
And after delivery, ensure that your dog is up-to-date with all its necessary vaccinations before bringing your newborn home.
In conclusion, avoid contact with unfamiliar dogs and premises where strange dogs are present. This is because if a dog attacks a pregnant woman, the resulting consequences can be devastating.
Pregnancy and pet reptiles
It is not a common phenomenon to keep reptiles in Nigeria. However, pregnant subjects who own exotic pets such as lizards, turtle, snakes, frogs, toads or any other animal in this category should be cautious because their faeces contains a heavy load of a bacterium known as salmonella.
Even if a pet reptile has a negative test for salmonella, it does not mean the animal is not infected with the bacterium. Instead, it could mean that the animal was not shedding salmonella on the day it was tested.
Pregnant women and children under the age of five should be especially careful of salmonella because they are at increased risk of infection. A family expecting a child should remove any pet reptile from the home before the infant arrives.
Pregnancy and farm animals
To avoid the possible risk of infection during contact with farm animals, pregnant women are advised to:
- Avoid providing assistance to farm animals that are giving birth.
- Avoid contact with aborted or new-born animals or with the afterbirth, birthing fluids or materials (e.g. bedding) contaminated by such birth products.
- Avoid handling (including washing) clothing, boots or any materials that may have come into contact with animals that have recently given birth, their young or afterbirths.
- Ensure that partners attending to animals giving birth take appropriate health and hygiene precautions, including the wearing of personal protective equipment and adequate washing to remove any potential contamination.
Pregnant women should seek medical advice if they experience fever or influenza-like symptoms shortly after attending to farm animals, or if concerned that they could have acquired infection from a farm environment.
In conclusion, farmers have a responsibility to minimise risks to pregnant women, including members of their family, the public and professional staff visiting farms. One of these ways is by consulting their veterinary surgeon about suitable vaccination programmes and any other disease control measures.
Have a great weekend.