An upcoming article in Emerging Infectious Diseases is already raising hackles and stimulating a great deal of debate by suggesting sleeping with your pets in the bed can be risky. The authors, one of whom I remember from Davis as a great zoonotics expert with a vast and horrifying litany of case studies, reviewed past medical literature to come up with examples of human infections that most likely originated from the pet.
Before we get into anything else, it’s worth noting this fundamental summary:
The probability of getting sick from sharing your bed with your pet is extremely rare, said lead author, Bruno Chomel, a professor of zoonoses at University of California Davis. But he warned that children and people who have compromised immune systems should be aware of the risks.
Although it’s certainly attention grabbing to scream IF YOUR DOG SLEEPS WITH YOU YOU’LL GET MENINGITIS AND DIE, well, in all likelihood you won’t. The summary of cases they excerpted in the CNN blog all point out some rather risky behaviors:
- man lets dog lick open wound, gets sick
- child sleeps with flea infested cat, gets sick
- woman feeds dog from her mouth, gets sick
- cat chews pacifier, mom gives pacifier to baby, baby gets sick
I don’t let the dogs sleep on the bed, as much for space issues as for “I saw you running in the dirt all day, no thanks”, but I’m not averse to some cuddles here and there. Shoot, what’s the point of having a pet who craves love and attention if you’re not going to give them love and attention?
As much as the media may try to hype this into something it’s really not, Chomel goes on to emphasize the importance of common sense: use extra caution with the very young, the very old, and the immunosuppressed.
Keep your pet parasite free with routine treatments. Emphasize hand washing, especially with young children who may need extra reminders. Don’t, um, let your dog lick your open wounds or feed him from your mouth like you’re Lady and the Tramp.
And then get on with your life and love on your pet! I’ve worked in this field close to a decade now, with pets teeming with all sorts of icky things, and by following two simple rules I’ve managed to avoid anything nasty.
- Don’t lick my mouth.
- Wash hands, wash hands, wash hands.
I loved the Boston Kissing Booth at the AKC Eukanuba show. It was my favorite booth. Judging by the line waiting to get a little smooch on the cheek, I don’t think the pet loving populace is ready to give up on kisses any time soon.
How close is too close for comfort? Where do we draw the line with this stuff anyway? How close do you get with your pets?