Dogs are a man's (and a woman's) best friend. But, as any person who has ever had a dog chew on their shoes knows that this saying isn't exactly true. As adorable as those furry creatures may be, pregnant women should take some precaution, because according to a new study published on Wednesday, dogs can spread illness to pregnant women. And although the study found that contracting the illness is rare, pregnant women should be aware of this.
The new study, published in Emerging Infectious Diseases and conducted by researchers at Texas A&M University, according to People, found that dogs are able to spread a bacterial infection called brucellosis to all humans, including pregnant women. But it can be particularly risky for pregnant women, due to the "negative effects" it has on their pregnancy.
Although this understandably sounds very scary, according to UPI, contracting brucellosis is pretty rare and the amount of cases prevalent in the United States are widely unknown. Still, the study found that people who come in contact with dogs who have brucellosis are at risk of contracting brucellosis, especially those who have compromised immune systems, according to People.
So how do people contract brucellosis? According to UPI, it's likely to be contracted by those who have contact with a dog's reproductive organs or their urine — but it takes a lot to get a human sick from their animal. "An average, healthy adult would probably not contract this disease unless they were exposed to a really high concentration of bacteria," Martha Hensel, lead researcher of the study, said, according to People.
The symptoms people get after contracting brucellosis are those that they can't really ignore. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the symptoms associated with brucellosis are not limited to fever, headache, joint pain, arthritis, and chronic fatigue — some of which can last for "prolonged periods of time."
But according to the study, people should still be aware of brucellosis, regardless of how rare it may be — especially since the impacts that contracting brucellosis have on pregnant women are a little scary. Pregnant women might want to be a little more cognizant, according to Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security said, according to UPI, because it has been "linked to fetal problems in women who are pregnant when they contract it".
One 2015 study published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases found that these fetal problems from brucellosis can include preterm labor, preterm delivery, and even fetal death. Because these outcomes are so serious and threatening, it's understandable why anyone might want to pay attention to this disease, even if it might be a little harder to contract from just petting your family dog.
So, if expecting mothers have gotten in contact with brucellosis, this isn't something they want to mess around with, according to the CDC. Those who think they they've come in contact with brucellosis should consult with their healthcare provider, because antibiotics treatment can be available — and a prompt treatment for brucellosis can, understandably, be "life saving" for the fetus, according to the CDC.
Although this study might have found that dogs can spread brucellosis to their owners and their impact their pregnancy, previous studies have found that dogs are also able to spread other parasitic and bacterial infections to their owners, according to CBS News. A study conducted in 2015, according to CBS News, found that household pets were not only able to transmit salmonella to their owners but parasites such as hookworm and roundworm.
While this might sound scary, it doesn't mean that pregnant women should stop cuddling with their dogs to avoid getting infected by anything. The best way to prevent germs from spreading, of course, is to wash your hands, according to CBS News. And those who are pregnant should contact their doctor immediately if they feel they've contracted brucellosis, according to UPI.
With more people aware of brucellosis, the lead researcher of this new study is hoping that this study will bring more attention to it and lead to treatment, according to People. But in the mean time, the best thing all people can do is be aware that this can happen.