Sleeping With Your Pet/ Health Risks?

January 30, 2011

You may have seen the headlines. “Vet Advises No Pets in Bed” (NBC) or “Sleeping with pet might be health risk” (ABC). These came out after the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine shared results of a study on the matter with USA Today. These articles suggest that you can get plague, chagas disease and cat-scratch fever by sharing your bed with a pet.

Judging from the statements made in these articles and the fact that about 50% of my patients share a bed with their owner , I would expect a lot more cases of plague and chagas disease in the Charleston area. So why aren’t we all sick?

There are more than 100 zoonotic diseases that can be passed from our pets to humans and the authors of the study pointed out a couple of specific cases. One man developed meningitis after his dog, whom he slept with, licked his hip-replacement wound. A young boy developed plague after sleeping with his cat. So, there obviously is concern about transmission of disease from pets to humans, but it might not be as bad as it sounds.

Most of these 100 or so diseases can be kept at bay with good preventive veterinary care and common sense hygiene tips. For example, diseases like plague and cat-scratch fever are connected with fleas. If the young boy’s cat had not had fleas, he wouldn’t have gotten sick. So, keep your pet’s flea free with the help of your veterinarian, and you shouldn’t have to worry about those diseases.

Other diseases that are commonly shared with people are hookworms and roundworms. These worms are carried by almost all puppies and kittens and it is estimated that about 10,000 people in the US contract roundworms each year. Roundworms are the parasites that migrate to the back of the human eye and cause vision loss. In pets, they cause no symptoms or diarrhea. You can keep your pets free of roundworms and hookworms by simply following the strategic de-worming programs dictated by your veterinarian and the Center for Disease Control. Monthly heartworm preventatives for both cats and dogs double as preventatives for hookworms and roundworms that continue for the life of a well-cared- for pet.

Other things you can do to keep your pet free of zoonotic diseases include picking up your pet’s stool so that it doesn’t contaminate your yard and good hygiene practices like washing your hands after playing with your pet. Regular bathing and grooming of pets keeps them clean and less likely to share bacteria with you. Keeping your pet and his environment clean, goes a long way.

But, let’s face it, some people are going to be more susceptible to diseases. Cancer patients, AIDS patients, the elderly and the very young often have suppressed immune systems. These individuals can ensure their own health by keeping their pets as healthy as possible but they may need to take extra precautions which may or may not include banning their pet from their bed.

Bottom line, there is a risk of catching something from your pet. However, the risk can be minimized and even removed altogether by following your veterinarian’s recommendations and practicing good hygiene. Don’t let media hype keep you from enjoying your pet’s unconditional love.


17 Responses to “Sleeping With Your Pet/ Health Risks?”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ligia Cardenas, Susanne Ford. Susanne Ford said: Sleeping With Your Pet/ Health Risks? « Beesferryvet's Blog: One man developed meningitis after his dog, whom he… […]

  2. Betts Kleinhans-Stevens Says:

    How about the benfits of sleeping with a pet near or on your bed when someone is bed-ridden? I think in some cases it helps people heal faster having the family member (a pet) close by

    • beesferryvet Says:

      I agree, I think it is beneficial for bed ridden people to have pets. If the person is immunodeficiency, then it is important to be sure that the pet is free of all parasites and healthy. A veterinarian can help you keep a pet in good enough shape to be around the sick.

  3. Morgan Says:

    My pets have slept with me my entire life. I have never caught anything, nor have I suffered any ill effects in doing so. Nor have I ever heard anyone I’ve ever known say that they caught something from sleeping with their pets. I think you need to spend far less time trying to scare people with silly things like this. I for one, will continue on as I have always done!

    • beesferryvet Says:

      I agree with you, I am in no way suggesting anyone shouldn’t sleep with their pets. I wasn’t trying to scare anyone, quite the reverse. The key is to keep your pets healthy and free of parasites.

  4. what can i say my belovered pet (cat) by the name of littleman as slept on my bed since i have had him i dont like him out at nite he is now 15 yrs old and my baby he was a stray b 4 i had him good life for him now (big cat lover)

  5. Stacey Says:

    Seriously, if this were really dangerous, myself and my parents would be dead already…

  6. marsha kelsey Says:

    My dog is healthy and clean. he gets regular veterinary attention and he is well behaved. he snores softly from time to time, but not nearly as loudly as my husband snores! he can be a bit of a “bed-hog”, but I don’t mind–when “his sands are run” I’ll think of my furry snuggler and be glad I let him share pillow and blankie with me, who loved him, and to whom he gave so much happiness!

  7. pamela bush Says:

    I have been sleeping with my animals all my life… never been sick because of it.

  8. beesferryvet Says:

    Hmm, don’t know about that one. Haven’t heard of a dog sharing his viral warts.

  9. Avery Dykzeul Says:

    My pets are my life and I don’t think my pets have ever gotten me sick nor have I ever heard of anybody getting sick by their pet but then again I do give my cat a good bath and brushing every so often.

  10. deepak som Says:

    gr8….i regularly take my dog for check ups and we never got her into a habit of sleeping with us.
    since her childhood she sleeps on her own bed and we never saw her getting up on our bed.
    after reading this article i realized the importance of that particular habit we put into her.

  11. mike Says:

    find a mate to sleep with. as far as animals go i love all animals, however not in my bed. make a little doggie/or kittie bed near your bed if it is so psychologically important to have a pet near by. Let dogs be dogs and humans sleep with humans. There will always be special circumstances, naturally. Handicap & special service animals. Thank God.

  12. Hi

    It’s a great article.


  13. Hi, Thank you so much for posting this article. I agree, it is really important to get involved with preventative measures for your pet. It will be a lot safer for them as well as for yourself.

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