Caring for pets when you’re pregnant

KEY POINTS

  • Some pets may carry health risks for pregnant women. Learn how to stay healthy and safe during pregnancy.

  • Make sure your pet is up-to-date on vaccinations and checked for infections.

  • Family members or partners can help with pet care during your pregnancy to keep you safe from infections that can harm your health.

  • Remove reptiles and exotic pets from the house during pregnancy.

  • Talk to your health care provider if you have questions about caring for your pets while pregnant.

Is it safe to care for pets during pregnancy?

Many families think of their pets as family. Pets bring much fun and joy to a home. But pregnant women have to be careful about the kinds of animals they keep in their home and know how to handle and care for them safely.

How can you care for your dog during pregnancy?

Use these tips to help keep you safe when you’re pregnant:

  • Don’t let your dog jump up on your belly.
  • Train your dog to stop bad habits, like biting or jumping, before you have your baby.  
  • Make sure your dog is up-to-date with vaccinations before your baby is born.
  • Ask your partner or a family member to spend more time with your dog if you and your dog are especially close. Because your baby will take much of your time and attention, having your dog develop relationships with others can help prepare him for changes to come once your baby is home.

How can you care for your cat during pregnancy?

Be careful with handling cats during pregnancy. They may carry toxoplasmosis, an infection caused by a parasite. Cats who go outside or hunt prey can get toxoplasmosis. Cats pass this parasite in their feces (poop).

How does toxoplasmosis spread?

You can get toxoplasmosis

  • By cleaning kitty litter
  • By touching dirt, like garden soil, where cats may have been
  • From eating undercooked meat, especially pork, lamb or deer meat (also called venison)

How can you protect yourself from toxoplasmosis during pregnancy?

Use these tips to keep safe from toxoplasmosis:

  • Ask a family member who isn't pregnant to clean out the litter box every day.
  • Wear disposable gloves and a facemask if you clean out the litter box. Wash your hands well with soap and water right away.
  • Keep your cat inside.
  • Stay away from stray cats and new cats.
  • Wash your hands well with soap and water after touching cat poop or after gardening.
  • Cover sandboxes to stop cats from using it as a litter box.
  • Feed your cat dry or canned foods. Don’t feed your cat undercooked meat.

What are signs and symptoms of toxoplasmosis?

Tell your health care provider if you have signs and symptoms of toxoplasmosis.  These include:

  • Body aches
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Fatigue (being very tired)

Some people with toxoplasmosis don’t have signs or symptoms of the infection. Talk to you healthcare provider if you think you may have been exposed to it.

Are hamsters, guinea pigs and mice safe pets to have when you’re pregnant?

If you’re pregnant or planning to get pregnant, be very careful with rodents like hamsters, guinea pigs and mice. They may carry a virus called lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (also called LCMV) that can be harmful to you and your baby. LCMV can cause severe birth defects and miscarriage.

The house mouse (a wild mouse found near and in homes) is the main source of LCMV. Pets like hamsters and guinea pigs can get infected with LCMV from being in contact with wild mice at a breeder, in a pet store or even in your home.

How does LCMV spread?

You can get LCMV:

  • From a bite from an infected animal
  • By touching an infected animal’s urine, blood, saliva, droppings or nesting materials
  • By breathing in dust or droplets when sweeping up droppings or cleaning out a cage

How can you protect yourself from LCMV during pregnancy?

To stay safe from LCMV when you’re pregnant:

  • Keep pet rodents in a separate part of your home.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water after touching pet rodents.
  • Ask other family members to care for the pet and clean its cage. Ask them to clean the cage in a well-ventilated area or outside. Keep cages clean and remove any dirty bedding.
  • Keep pet rodents away from your face.
  • Avoid contact with wild rodents.
  • If your home has wild rats or mice, use pest control (such as traps or a professional pest control company) to get rid of them. Talk to your health care provider before using any pest control chemicals in your home to make sure they won’t harm your health.

If you have children, especially under the age of 5:

  • Make sure an adult watches them closely when they’re around or playing with pet rodents.
  • Don’t let them kiss pet rodents or hold them close to their face.
  • Make sure they wash their hands with soap and water after touching pet rodents.

What are signs and symptoms of LCMV?

Tell your health care provider if you have signs and symptoms of LCMV. These include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Fatigue (being very tired)
  • Muscle aches or a stiff neck
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Not being hungry

Are reptiles, amphibians and exotic pets safe to have during pregnancy?

Some families have reptiles, like lizards, snakes and turtles, for pets. Some families have amphibians, like frogs. Reptiles and amphibians can carry germs that make people sick with infections like salmonellosis (also called salmonella infection) and listeria monocytogenes.  These infections during pregnancy can cause serious health complications for you and your baby including, pregnancy loss and preterm labor.

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Last reviewed: October, 2019