11 Pet Dangers and Concerns for Pregnant Women
Your pets are an important part of the family, and can continue to be vital members as your family grows. However, when there is a pregnant woman in the household, precautions need to be taken when handling your pet’s medications, supplements, and waste.
You should always ask your veterinarian if you have any concerns about the treatments your pet is receiving while you are pregnant. Most of the concerns with the following medications can be avoided by wearing gloves when handling the medication and washing hands immediately afterward, or by simply having someone else in the house medicate your family pets. Ultimately, caring for pets when you’re pregnant should, if possible, be left to another family member. If not possible, here are 11 of the most common dangers to be aware of.
- Chemotherapy. There are many different drugs used for chemotherapy in veterinary medicine. As the safety margins will differ from drug to drug, it is important to discuss the specific drug used with your veterinarian. In general, the biggest danger is the elimination of the chemotherapy drug, which is commonly in urine. Pregnant pet parents, those who are trying to conceive or those breastfeeding, should avoid handling chemotherapy drugs, and should avoid their pet’s waste (urine, feces and vomit) for 72 hours after the last treatment. For more information on Chemotherapy, go to Chemotherapy Treatment Procedure for Dogs.
- Chloramphenicol. A broad spectrum antibiotic that is usually reserved for serious infections or those that have failed to respond to other antibiotics, chloramphenicol can cause bone marrow suppression, vomiting, and nausea in humans. All owners should wear gloves when giving this medication to their pets, and pregnant and nursing women should use extra caution to avoid exposure. For more information on chloramphenicol, see our drug library article: Chloramphenicol (Chloromycetin®) for Dogs and Cats.
- Cyclosporine. An immunosuppressant medication commonly used for severe allergies and other skin conditions, cyclosporine will suppress the immune system in humans, and contact with this medication should be avoided by pregnant women. For more information on Cyclosporine, go to Cyclosporine (Atopica®, Optimmune®, Sandimmune®) for Cats and Dogs.
- Diethylstilbestrol (DES). Diethylstilbestrol is used in female dogs for hormone-responsive incontinence and can be used to avoid pregnancy in accidental mismating, although the second use is controversial and not commonly recommended. This drug is a synthetic estrogen, a hormone important in female reproduction. Exposure to pregnant dogs or humans is not recommended, and this medication is not used in cats. For more information on Diethylstilbestrol, go to Diethylstilbestrol (DES) for Female Dogs.
- Dinoprost (prostaglandin-F2alpha; PGF2; Lutalyse®). Dinoprost is a salt of the naturally occurring prostaglandin F2alpha that can be used in both cats and dogs to treat uterine infections or induce abortions. This drug should not be handled by pregnant women at all. Women of childbearing age and people with asthma or other respiratory problems should use extreme caution in handling these solutions. This drug is easily absorbed through the skin, and can cause uterine contractions and bronchospasm in exposed people.
- Mitotane (Lysodren) and Trilostane (Vetoryl). Both mitotane and trilostane are used to treat hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s disease) by interfering with hormone production in the adrenal gland. It can reduce the production of prostaglandin, and should not be used in pregnant animals. Pregnant women should use extreme caution when handling these medications. For more information on treatment of Cushing’s disease and mitotane or trilostane therapy, see the articles in our drug and medical library: Mitotane (Lysodren®) for Dogs and Hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s Syndrome) in Dogs.
- Methimazole (Tapazole, Felimazole). Methimazole is used to treat hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid gland) in cats. This medication interferes with thyroid function, which is crucial for a healthy pregnancy. It is available in tablets as well as a transdermal ointment that can be rubbed onto your cat’s skin. The transdermal ointment is not be recommended with a pregnant woman in the house. Pregnant or nursing women or women who may become pregnant should wear gloves when handling tablets, litter, or bodily fluids of treated cats. For more information on methimazole, see the article in our drug library: Methimazole (Tapazole®, Felimazole®) for cats.
- Misoprostol (Cytotec). Misoprostol is a prostaglandin analog that is used most commonly to treat gastric ulcers, especially associated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) usage or toxicity. Rarely, it is used to treat uterine infections (pyometra) or induce labor in female dogs. It has strong effects on the female reproductive tract, and can induce contractions and cause a miscarriage in pregnant women. This medication should be handled with great care or ideally not at all by pregnant women. For more information on misoprostol, see the article in our drug library: Misoprostol (Cytotec®) for Dogs and Cats.
- Profender (Emodepside + Praziquantel). This is a topical dewormer for cats that treats hookworms, roundworms and tapeworms. pregnant women or those who may become pregnant should avoid direct contact or wear gloves when applying this product. Studies have shown that the emodepside can also interfere with fetal development in rats and rabbits. For more information on emodepside, go to Emodepside/Praziquantel (Profender®) for Dogs and Cats.
- Radioactive iodine therapy (I131). Radioactive iodine therapy is one treatment option for cats with hyperthyroidism that involves injecting the patient cat with a radioactive isotope of iodine, which then works to interfere with the excessive thyroid activity. Cats undergoing this therapy are kept in the hospital for 5-10 days after the treatment is given. When they are released, they will still be shedding the radioactive isotope in their urine, feces, and saliva. Children under 18, pregnant women, nursing mothers, and women of child-bearing age must not have any contact with the cat including its urine, feces, saliva, or litter. Additionally, they must stay at least three feet away from the cat at all times for two weeks after they are released from the hospital. This is an important consideration in electing this method of treatment if you are pregnant or hoping to become pregnant. For more information on hyperthyroid treatments, go to Hyperthyroidism in Cats.
- Raw diets. While raw diets are not a medication or drug, they can pose a risk to pregnant women. They come with a higher risk of contamination with salmonella and listeria, two bacteria that can cause significant concern for pregnant women and their babies. While conventional diets have also been recalled for these contaminations, the risk is much higher with raw diets and pregnant owners should use caution when handling the food, dishes, and feces of family pets fed raw diets. For more information on these contaminants, see the articles in the PetPlace library: Listeria in Dogs, Listeria in Cats, Salmonellosis in Dogs, and Salmonellosis in Cats.
Please talk to your physician about your pets and any medications you may be giving them, as well as treatments they are receiving. This list may seem daunting, but, realistically, the risk from exposure to your pet is usually very small. It is important to remember that if handled safely, combining pets and pregnancy can be beneficial to everyone.