“When we decided to have a baby, I have to leave my Suzy and Rocky since my friends told me keeping pets during pregnancy is harmful for the baby,” my cousin Kat told me about her pregnant plan, staring at her cat and dog with tear in her eyes. Well, even though having a baby is really exciting, but for those who treat their pets like sons and daughters, leaving them is also heart breaking.
“I love my pets, but I am more concerned about my baby.” Kat, like many child-bearing age women, is very concerned about whether having pets during pregnancy will be harmful for the baby. Looking at their dilemma, I feel I should do something—to find out the truth behind this pending mystery.
Q1: What are the actual health concerns of keeping pets during pregnancy?
One of the major threats is contracting Toxoplasmosis, which is caused by parasite Toxoplasma and transmitted buy animals, especially cats. It might be surprised to know that according to CDC’s data, more than 60 million men, women, and children in the U.S. carry this parasite; however, very few have symptoms and actual health problem because the normally the immune system can keep the parasite from causing harm. However, women got infected during their pregnancy might suffer from severe outcomes. Potential harms can be miscarriage, stillborn, and baby congenital defects of the brain and eyes.
The parasite can exist in different animals. Eating raw beef, mutton, or drinking contaminated cow or goat’s milk might contract the disease. Cat is the only animal that can transmit toxoplasma spore through their feces and cat is proven to be the major vector of infection.
Q2: Can we take some prevention instead of just leaving the pets? Yes, we can—our lives should not have too many dilemma–you don’t need to let your pets go. Here are the things women before pregnency can do:
1. To have body check both for the women and the pets before pregnancy is the first thing can be done. Preconception women should have blood test about the toxoplasma antibody; if the result is positive, it will be wise to consult to your doctor for treatment before getting pregnant. For the pets, also give them a check; if the result is positive, try to cure them before getting pregnant.
2. Other than seeking out medical support, it is more important to create a hygiene and safe environment at home. Since cat feces are major factor in dissemination, pregnant women should not contact with cat excretion; all the sweeping works should be leaved to the husband or other family members. Also pregnant women should pay more attention on food preparation. Dishes should be cleaned by sterilant if they are contracted to a pet; also make sure that the chopping board is cleaned before you use it to cut cooked food.
3. Food choices will be another concern. Because raw egg or raw meat can contain parasite, you should make sure they are absolute sanitary; otherwise, cook the food exhaustively instead.
4. Try not to be too close to your pet will be another wise move. Since your cats and dogs might play around outside in the yard, they might carry some parasite with them even they are not infected. So clean your hand thoroughly after holding them; try to avoid kissing your pets or let them kiss you, and don’t let them come on your bed—I know they will be considerate for you for the nine months!
Hoo! Lack of some knowledge can often cause fear; after knowing the truth, many women now can heave a sigh of relief, getting ready to enjoy the moment of having a baby with their intimate pets!
To further explore about pregnancy and pets, here are some good websites:
American Pregnancy Associaton: http://www.americanpregnancy.org/pregnancyhealth/pets.html
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention : http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/toxoplasmosis/