Is Sharing a Bed with Your Pet Healthy?
Among dog owners, 53 percent treat their dog as a member of the family, and 56 percent of those sleep with their dog in the bed. The number of cats in bed with their owners is even higher. Is there a problem with this?
Are You at risk for Transmittable Diseases and Infection When Pets Share Your Bed?
This is a tough question to answer. There are some serious diseases that can be transmitted from pets to people through close contact, like ringworm, cat scratch disease, toxoplasmosis, giardia and leptospirosis. Some of these can be very serious, but most can be prevented. Parasite control is very important for both dogs and cats, as is appropriate immunization. Pets should not sleep with any person with a weakened immune system.
The other common problem with pets in beds lies with bacterial infections. Pets with dental problems should not be allowed to lick or “kiss” family members. The myth that pets have clean mouths could not be further from the truth; dogs and cats harbor up to 300 different species of bacteria in their mouths. Skin and ear infections also are sources of bacteria that can infect people as well, including staphylococcal bacterial infections.
Benefits of Sharing a Bed with Our Pets
On the other hand, human medical studies have shown irrefutable evidence of the benefits of pet ownership, including lower blood pressure, reduced cholesterol and triglyceride levels, improved cardiac health, improved mental health and improved health for the elderly and increased opportunities for exercise, outdoor activities and social interaction. There is evidence that kids who grow up with pets are less likely to develop allergy problems.
Precautions to Take When Sleeping with a Pet
To protect yourself and your family while at the same time keeping your pet healthy, any pet that sleeps in the bed should be on a continuous parasite control program and vaccination schedule and should have regular dental care under general anesthesia as directed by your veterinarian. Additionally, any ear or skin problems should be addressed immediately, and pets with active skin, ear or dental problems should not be allowed to sleep in the bed. Pets that are in excellent health, on an excellent parasite and vaccine program and have a clean bill of dental health from their veterinarian are as safe as they can be for healthy individuals who choose to have their pets as bed buddies.
“Letting Sleeping Dogs Lie in Your Bed Can Kill You,” AOL News. Andrew Schneider. January 20, 2011. CDC Study.
CDC Website “Health Benefits of Pets” http://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/health_benefits.htm
Kevin Kettler, DVM, is a graduate of Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine who lives in Dickinson, Texas. Dr. Kettler practices at Dickinson Animal Hospital and Pet Wellness Center.