Pregnancy and Pets

There are several safety concerns of which you should be aware if you have pets and become pregnant.  Some concerns relate to your pregnancy, others relate to the changes a baby brings to a house with pets.

The chief concern among these while you are pregnant is the risk of toxoplasmosis.  Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by a microscopic parasite.  You can get Toxoplasmosis by eating undercooked infected meat or by handling soil or cat litter that contain the parasite.  Most adults have no symptoms, but the infection can cross the placenta to the unborn child.  Unborn children infected in early pregnancy may suffer from blindness, deafness, seizures, mental retardation or cerebral palsy.  Toxoplasmosis may also result in miscarriage or stillbirth.   The best way to avoid toxoplasmosis is to avoid cat litter while you are pregnant.

If your dog is large and has the habit of jumping on you, there is a small risk in late pregnancy that he could cause actual damage to your baby if he hits just right.  It would be best to train him early in pregnancy not to jump on you any longer.

If your pet is a reptile or amphibian, there are risks as well.  Handling reptile feces can open the door to transmission of salmonella bacteria, which can complicate your pregnancy.  This risk continues after your child is born, and you should be conscious that you are not handling your baby or her food immediately after handling one of these animals.

There are things you can do while pregnant to help your pet prepare for the new baby.  The type of preparation depends on the type of pet you have.  For dogs, for example, you will need to train him on the difference between his toys and the baby’s toys.  Your vet may have ideas about how to specifically introduce your dog to the new baby.

If you have a cat or cats, you should begin to get the cat used to not going into certain rooms, such as the baby’s room or a play room.  Cats are likely to be very territorial, and it is best to get them used to the changes in their territory early.  While the old legend of cats stealing babies’ breath is obviously just that, you should still take caution about how your cat and baby interact.

Leila Pereira
Leila Pereira
I work in occupational therapy and occupational science. I specialize in early intervention pediatrics for children from birth to three years old; with an emphasis on children with autism. My goals are to support the achievement of developmental milestones in your child while collaborating with caregivers & parents; including play skill development, education, leisure, rest and sleep, feeding, nutrition and social participation. Licensed by the California Board of Occupational Therapy

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