Many of us who are pet owners care and love our pets as part of our families. About 62% of Australians own pets and it is estimated there are 24 million pets in Australia.
During pregnancy, our love, care and attention for our pets should not change. However, some pet care responsibilities will need to be shared amongst your household so that a mother and baby’s health and wellbeing is the priority.
Here are some helpful tips that will keep you and your baby safe from zoonotic infections and harm. Zoonotic infections are typically spread from animals to humans or can be passed, by eating contaminated meat.
Good handwashing, when dealing with any pet, is sensible. A good soap and warm water hand wash after feeding, handling or having any contact with an animal’s food or living quarters is recommended within your house. Wearing gloves and handwashing after gardening to avoid animal faeces in the soil is important.
An alcoholic hand rub or sanitiser is not sufficient as a hand wash.
Dogs and Cats.
- Make sure your dog or cat is up to date with regular vaccinations. Do this before your baby is born.
- Don’t let your dog jump up onto your belly. Train out bad habits like biting, growling or excessive jumping, before the baby comes.
- Make sure your family or partner spends time with your dog before birth so the dog is used to less time with you.
- Toxoplasmosis is an infection that is caused by a parasite and carried by cats. Ask someone else in your house to clean the kitty litter tray as this parasite can be passed in cat faeces.
- Keep your cat inside, stay away from stray cats and don’t feed a cat undercooked meat.
- Seek medical treatment for a bite or scratch from a dog or cat.
For dogs, in particular, taking home a piece of clothing or a blanket, which smells of the baby, before the baby comes home, will help familiarise the dog with the baby’s scent and help initiate positive introductions.
Supervision of your dogs and cats whilst the baby is sleeping, or closing doors, is crucial, as these animals do like to curl up where it is warm. Cats especially have been known to nestle on top of sleeping babies.
Mice, Guinea Pigs, and Rabbits.
These pets can carry a virus called Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis ( LCMV ). House mice or wild rodents can often pass this virus onto pet rodents and guinea pigs.
- Be careful not to touch these animals, their urine, saliva, blood, faeces or cage/nesting materials as these can be infected with LCMV. Ask someone else to clean cages in a well-ventilated area as LCMV can be passed via droplets or dust.
- Seek medical treatment for a bite from these animals as a bite can pass on LCMV.
- The same applies to good hand washing after handling these animals. More particular care needs to be taken not touch urine, saliva or blood.
- Reptiles, like lizards, turtles, and snakes, can carry Salmonella infection which can be transmitted through faeces.
- Good hygiene and cleaning of surfaces are essential with a reptile in the house, and best not to let the reptile roam around the house due to the spread of infections.
- Leaving cleaning of their living quarters to someone else is a good idea.
- Seek medical treatment for a bite from a reptile.
- Birds can carry a few zoonotic infections such as Chlamydia, Campylobacter, Salmonella, and Protozoa.
- It is recommended to have your bird checked at the vet before pregnancy and wise to avoid handling birds and their cage cleaning, during pregnancy.