Your pets are an important part of the family and can continue to be a big part as your family grows. When there is a pregnant woman in the home, some precautions should be taken with handling your pets medications, supplements, and waste. The risk of handling cat waste/litter boxes is handled in a separate article. For more information on cats and pregnant women, see the following article in the PetPlace library: Are cats dangerous to pregnant women?
The focus of this article is medications and treatments your pet may receive and cautions that should be taken. You should always ask your veterinarian if you have any concerns about the treatments your pet is receiving while you are pregnant. This article is not meant to replace any advice given by your doctor, you should also let them know you have pets and what medications they are taking so they can discuss these topics. We tried to come up with the most common exposures you may have during pregnancy- if there is a medication prescribed that is not listed, check out our Drug Library to find out more information. Most of the concerns with the following medications can be avoided by wearing gloves when handling the medication and washing hands immediately afterward or having someone else in the house medicate your pet.
1. Chemotherapy: There are many different drugs used in chemotherapy in veterinary medicine and the safety margins will differ, 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 owners, those who are trying to conceive, or breastfeeding should avoid handling chemotherapy 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.
2. Chloramphenicol: A broad spectrum antibiotic that is usually reserved for serious infections or those that have failed to respond to other antibiotics. It can cause bone marrow suppression, vomiting, and nausea in humans. All owners should wear gloves when giving this medication to their pets, 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.
3. Cyclosporine: Immunosuppressant medication commonly used for severe allergies and skin conditions as well as autoimmune conditions such as immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA). Cyclosporine will also 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.
4. 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. This medication is not used in cats. For more information on Diethylstilbestrol, go to Diethylstilbestrol (DES) for Female Dogs.
5. Dinoprost (prostaglandin-F2alpha; PGF2; Lutalyse®): Dinoprost is a salt of the naturally occurring prostaglandin F2alpha that can be used in cats and dogs to treat uterine infections (pyometra) 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.
6. Mitotane (Lysodren) and Trilostane (Vetoryl): Both Mitotane and Trilostane are used to treat hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s disease) by interfering with the hormone production in the adrenal gland. It can reduce the production of prostaglandin and should not be used in pregnant animals, pregnant women should also use 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®, o’p’DDD) for Dogs and Hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s Syndrome) in Dogs.
7. 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 and a transdermal ointment that can be rubbed onto your cat’s skin, the transdermal ointment would 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.
8. 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 abortion/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.
9. Profender (Emodepside + Praziquantel): This is a topical dewormer for cats that treats hookworms, roundworms and tapeworms. This product recommends that 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 interfere with fetal development in rats and rabbits. For more information on Profender, go to Emodepside/Praziquantel (Profender®) for Dogs and Cats
10. Radioactive iodine therapy (I131): Radioactive iodine therapy is one treatment option for cats with hyperthyroidism and involves injecting the patient with a radioactive isotope of iodine to interfere with the excessive thyroid activity. These cats are kept in the hospital usually for 5-10 days after the treatment is given. When they are released home 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 it’s urine, feces, saliva, or litter; and, 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; if this is the case, one of the other treatment options may be better for you and your cat. For more information on hyperthyroid treatments, go to Hyperthyroidism in Cats.
11. Raw diets: While raw diets are not a medication or drug, they can pose a risk to pregnant women. They are at a higher risk of contamination with salmonella and listeria which are 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 higher with raw diets and pregnant owners should use caution when handling the food, dishes, and feces of 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.
While this is not an all-inclusive list of risks to pregnant women. Please talk to your physician about your pets and any medications you may be giving, treatments your cat may be receiving and if you are feeding a raw food diet. We hope that by covering the most common medications/drugs we were able to help you be more information as a pet owner.
This list may seem daunting but realistically the risk from exposure to your pet is usually very small. Again, if you have any concerns about a medication your pet is taking and its risks, please discuss this with your veterinarian and/or your physician as they will be able to tailor their advice to your specific situation.