Having a companion animal can be highly beneficial. Pet owners are known to have lower blood pressure, less stress and better overall cardiovascular health than people in similar circumstances without pets.
However, if you are pregnant and have companion animals, you should take some precautions to avoid potentially dangerous exposures:
- Wash your hands frequently. This will help limit exposure to fleas, ticks, irritant oils from poison oak and ivy, and infectious fungus like ringworm (all can be carried on your pet's fur). To limit their exposure, consider keeping your dogs and cats out of wooded areas while you are pregnant.
- Avoid being scratched by your cat. Cat scratch fever is a disease caused by a bacterium, Bartonella, marked by swollen lymph nodes, joint pain and fever.
- Do not clean the litter box. Toxoplasmosis, a protozoan parasite found in soil and animal feces, can be contracted through cleaning a litter pan. Developing fetuses are especially at risk for severe disease; infection may result in miscarriage or stillbirth. If you can’t find someone else to regularly clean your cat’s litter box, consider lending your kitty to a friend or family member for the duration of your pregnancy.
- Have your pets checked for parasites such as hookworm and intestinal roundworms -these can be passed from animals to humans through feces.
Visit the Pets & Pet Care section of my site for information on everything from fighting fleas and ticks naturally to tips for adopting a companion animal.