Some very common questions when we are expecting a baby are: what can I do with my pet? Will it need some kind of extra treatment? Will it feel jealous of the baby?
Most pets are supposed to be under control and well educated, so they won’t need any extra. When we say under control we mean, of course, updated of yearly injections and internal (every 3 months minimum) and external (monthly) antiparasitic treatments. In case of a new baby at home, internal treatments are the most important ones, since internal parasites are very contagious, and, except in some extreme cases, you can’t see them. In case of external parasites transmission is much less common. The Vet will advise you about the best option for treating internally and externally the pet (because not all the options are valid depending on the specific case).
Another typical question would be: my dog has leishmaniasis. Will it imply some risk for the baby? The dog is not a problem. The real problem is the mosquito, which natural habitat is all the Mediterranean area. Having a positive dog at home doesn’t increase significantly the risk of transmission.
What about cats and Toxoplasma while I’m pregnant? There is not a very big number of carrier cats. The disease is caused by protozoa which are eliminated discontinuously via feline faeces. Cats can be tested for antibodies, but the most important in this case is to know Toxoplasmosis is dangerous only during pregnancy, and only in case the pregnant woman has no antibodies (they appear when the woman has had a previous contact with the disease. These antibodies will eliminate any kind of risk for the foetus). Supposing the worst case scenario (a positive cat living with a negative pregnant woman), avoiding to touch the litter tray during the pregnancy is enough. When the baby is born, it’s no longer a foetus, so the risk disappears. Besides, fresh vegetables, cold meats and not enough cooked food imply a much bigger risk of transmission than a cat, but doctors ignore this very often.
Are companion birds a risk for the baby? Caged birds are not a risk. In case of birds living in semi-freedom, they must be watched for avoiding accidents, but there is not an usual bird behaviour to attack a baby, except in case of big and intelligent birds which may have an excess of emotional attachment to the owner. This condition is not only seen in birds, but also in dogs (the typical case of a hyper protective dog).
In most cases there is no need to modify anything at home when the new baby arrives. Animals are not an obstacle but a source of extra stimulation for the newborn (in many cases, the pet is the first best friend of the baby).
May a pet get jealous? Nowadays, a pet is really another member of the family, and it takes some time (very short in most cases), to get adapted to the new scenario (a new person, but also some new furniture or a new house. A mentally healthy dog would never attack a baby. Cats are a singular case: some of them hate everything that is new, and they may get seriously ill, or timid, or naughty, or even run away from home. So far, we don’t know any case of a home cat attacking a new baby. If the cat starts showing signs of discomfort, your Vet will advise you about some pheromone or other treatments available for these cases.
Liliana Aldeguer Cerdán col 793
English translation by Sergio Reina Esteban col 747