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Pregnancy, Babies and Your Pets

Finding out you are pregnant is one of the most exciting days of your life, but being a pet owner there are often many concerns that come along with that. Whether you've got a dog or a cat there are several important things to know about and prepare yourself for both during pregnancy and after baby comes home. In this article you will find information that should help with the transition.

It is essential during your pregnancy to prepare your dog for the new routine the baby will bring. Sometimes we forget just how many changes there will be from the viewpoint of our pets. Think about it; there are new sounds, smells, and sights your dog will be experiencing every day. These things can be scary to any pet but especially to one who is unprepared. Here are some easy ways to get your dog ready for the changes:

• Touch your dog's feet, face, ears, and tail often. Children are very hands-on so it is important to prepare your pet for being handled in a way similar to how a child may act. As your child grows you should also to teach him/her how to use gentle hands and responsible actions with dogs because no matter how well adjusted your dog is nobody likes having their hair pulled or fingers pushed in their face.

• Avoid letting the dog jump on you or pull while on leash. These are dominant behaviors that could not only lead to many more bad behaviors, but could also cause injury to you or your child.

• Socialize your dog both with people and other animals. Try to facilitate as much interaction as possible. Introduce the dog to children of various ages and let them interact with each other, always supervised. You want to be sure that this experience is enjoyable for both the dog and the child. Let the dog know that he is safe and has no reason to fear being around children.

• Touch and interact with your dog while he's eating and playing with toys or treats. Doing this helps the dog get used to you being near during these activities and helps him to understand that he is safe. This is a good thing to do with a dog from a very young age; if you are starting with an older dog you should always approach slowly and use caution as the dog may already have aggression issues that you are unaware of.

• Teach your dog the difference between his toys and the baby's toys. Don't let your dog play with toys that are intended for your children. Besides the germ factor you should teach your dog which toys are okay for him to chew on and which ones aren't so that there is no confusion once the baby comes.

It is also essential to pick out any possible aggressive behaviors your dog may have and work hard to stop them immediately. Dogs will often try to protect things they identify as being there own such as food, toys, people, beds, or personal spaces. Your dog needs to understand that these things he thinks he is protecting are yours, not his. Signs of aggression can include growling, showing teeth, hair standing up or low body posture but may go as far as snapping or biting when people or other animals are around. These behaviors should never be tolerated.

Aggression is a learned behavior and it is much easier to train in avoidance of bad behavior than it is to correct the behavior after it is acquired. If you have a dog who seems to be showing signs of aggression it is important to work quickly to eliminate it. The faster you respond to correct bad behaviors the better it will be for everyone in your household, including your pets. Here are some tips for what you can do if you find that your dog is acting aggressively:

• Check with your vet. Sometimes aggressive behavior may be the result of a medical ailment (ex. Losing sight or hearing, painful joints or teeth, etc.). Have your vet rule out these possibilities.

• Have your dog spayed or neutered. Beyond the health advantages, sterilizing your dog can help to reduce dominant behavior that often leads to aggression.

• Work with a trainer or behaviorist to correct the issue. There are several great resources locally, check with your vet to see who they recommend. We recommend the following:

⁃ Canine Coach: 763-229-8003
⁃ Petra Mertins from the U of M: 612-625-1919
⁃ Eileen Roston, certified pet trainer: 612-382-5678

When you are looking for a trainer, do not be afraid to ask lots of questions. You want to know that the person you are working with is qualified and experienced for the situation. You should also be aware of the training methods they are using and be comfortable and confident with whatever those methods are.

The biggest concern with cats involves an infection called toxoplasmosis. Toxoplasmosis is a disease that can cause a variety of adverse effects including serious eye and brain damage, learning disabilities, premature and still birth, as well as convulsions and jaundice. Although infection is rare it is a very serious issue that can be easily avoided.

According to the CDC more than 60 million Americans carry the toxoplasmosis parasite without ever having symptoms and around 15% of women are immune due to previous exposure. Because exposure occurs through the handling of raw meat, cats are often infected by eating rodents, birds, or other animals that are diseased. The illness is then passed on to people through feces. The best way for a pregnant woman to avoid toxoplasmosis is to refrain from changing litter boxes. If you are pregnant and changing the litter box is unavoidable you should always wear gloves and wash your hands afterwards. Also, litter boxes should be changed as often as possible since the parasite does not become infectious for 1 to 5 days after being passed. Gloves should always be worn while gardening too as it is common for feces to be found in garden soil.

If you own a cat or are concerned that you may have been exposed, your doctor can perform a simple blood test to determine whether or not you have immunity. Antibiotics can also be administered to help reduce the baby's risk if an infection is found.

Other things to help you prepare kitty for the new family member include getting him ready for the new noises, scents, and routine you will all be experiencing. Exposing the cat to children or the sound of a crying baby can be very beneficial. Having friends bring their child(ren) over and letting the cat approach them is a great way to do this. The cat should also be allowed to explore the nursery and any other baby specific areas; although, you may want to keep him out of these areas once the baby has arrived. After that remembering to feed and change the litter at the times kitty is used to as well as giving him the love and attention he needs are the best things you can do to keep your kitty happy.

After the baby is home your pets have hopefully had all the necessary preparations to help make the transition easier. Remember, whether you've got a cat, dog, or both the most important thing you can do is be patient and continue to give your pets the affection and care they are used to. It may take some time and hard work but in the end you'll find that it is all worth the effort.

Look for other Auntie Ruth's sponsored articles for more tips on how to keep your pets and kids safe and happy!

Categories: Advice, Ideas & Stories, MomShare, Pregnancy,

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