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
None of which, if you notice, involve ‘dog just hangs out on my bed at night, no biggie.’ I would hope that these aren’t the sorts of things your average pet loving person would do.
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?
Tabitha W says
OK, I am going to be real honest here.. When I was little my mom had a dog and i would hold a piece of cheese between my lips and the dog would take it. I love it and I love that dog. Her name was princess and she was perfect. I was about 3 at the time. I had rats until I was about 15, and I let them eat off my plate and lick my lips, one I even slept with. A 15 I got a cat, Teaspoon. She slept with me every night but she was not a “kissy” cat. I now have Magoo, Mini and George (Teaspoon still lives with my parents as my Mom could not stand to part with her and me when I moved). Magoo sleeps on my head. He rests his head on my forehead. Sometimes he drools, and every night he grooms me. He also like to lick up peoples noses. We don’t let him but he has gotten a few good licks while I was sleeping. Sometimes he will lick your lips too. We don’t encourage it but, once again, sleeping. George also sleeps with us and gives nose kisses, where he presses his nose on your nose. Mini just snuggles and licks my leg hair when I have not shaved in a while.
I love my pets and I kiss them and sleep with them. I guess what I am saying is I don’t care what they say. Do you sleep with your sick child when they have the flu knowing that you are going to get it? Yes, of course.
hidden exposures says
my guess would be that zoonotic diseases are far, far less prevalent than ones that are transmitted from human to human. i wouldn’t last very long if i was told i couldn’t bury my nose in my dog’s fur and inhale or if i couldn’t kiss him on the head. yes, he loves licking my hands (i must pass for a human salt lick) and i am of the belief that the colds i end up battling are thanks to my fellow humans.
I sleep with my dog all the time! If he cooperated all the time, i’d have him laying right next to or on top of me all the time! He actually is quite a bit already, he’s ridiculously cuddly at times (which i absolutely love!!!), but also has a designated love seat filled with pillows that he likes too 🙂 Bottom line for me, cuddling with my dog is like top 2 of my favorite things in the whole world. If i might get sick and die from it…..i’ll take my chances!
Well, I am 30 years old and have had dogs all of my life and both of my current dogs sleep in the bed most of the night. I have issues with space, more than I do about them giving me something. Just this morning, I woke up to Akira doing her cute as heck Husky Curl inbetween me and the Husband. I have not once been sick, or even thought about it in all of these years! Heck, Akira is a total kisser too… when I get home from work, I MUST sit on the floor and let her lick my entire face before she settles down. And frankly, I love it! Ill even go up to her and ask for kisses and kind of kiss her nose and before I can pull away she always gets me with her tongue.
Ah well. To each their own!
steve at gangs of new yorkie says
We cannot even fathom sleeping without our pup draped over one of us…
However, Steve the yorkie wants to know if HE can get anything from the humans. If so, he demands workdog compensation.
I have two big cuddly labs that sleep with us, and have since they were brought home at six weeks old. My husband and I both cuddle with them and get kisses from them. We consider them our furry children. I can’t wait to get home to them. I’ve never caught any kind of disease from any pet I’ve ever had.
1) I do deworm and use flea preventatives on my dogs when appropriate to avoid parasites – because that’s the smart thing to do
2) I sleep with my pets, the two dogs sleep under the covers even (they get cold) and the cats on top. Because they are happiest being with us, and we are happiest being with them 🙂
I started to type a response about loving your pets that somehow went PG-13 really fast. So instead i say, if it works for you, stay true. The common sense urged here is the phrase that pays.
Annette Frey says
Yeah, I think I’ll still get kisses from Starr AND put a biscuit in my mouth and let her do an “up & gentle take”. : )
Dr. V says
I would never do that with my dogs, and it’s not even because of the germ thing. I would lose my nose. (Need to work on gentle take.)
My two previous dogs both slept with us. About 150 pounds of dog combined didn’t leave much room for the two humans though. Well, one human had plenty of room and the other (me) always ended up scrunched up. When we got Clyde, we decided he could come up on the bed for family time before we turn out the lights, but he sleeps on his bed in the floor at the foot of our bed. Clyde isn’t a kisser either. He’s a rescue, and I think someone in his previous life trained it out of him. He’s awkward when he does lick, which is rare, like he’s not quite sure about doing it. And he only licks on my hands. Alley, the cat, sleeps snuggled up next to me with her head on my pillow and sometimes her arm around my neck. She will sneak a lick or two on my face during the night, which I discourage. Not because I’m afraid of her germs but because it wakes me up and because I have other preferred methods of facial exfoliation!
Barbara and Daisy says
I’m 73 and haven’t caught any disgusting diseases yet … at least from my dogs! Of course, I keep them clean, for their benefit as well as mine.
Emily K says
All my pets have always slept on the bed with me and I wouldn’t have it any other way. (Saves money on the heating bill!)
This explains a lot- recently I have been having urges to go to the bathroom outside, rub my face along the front of the couch, bark at the TV when there are dogs on it and drag my bottom across the floor. I do believe this is all because I sleep with my dog. That’s it- I’m sleeping on the floor from now on 😉
Hawk aka BrownDog says
Jenifer, your answer is fantastic!
I’ve slept with a couple of my dogs over the years. My husband and I have only let our Basenji sleep in bed with us. All the other dogs have been large retrievers…and, like Dr.V….it’s a space thing. I’ve also let most of my pets do the “gentle take” a large treat from between my teeth from time to time. Hubby saw this one day and said that was a great way to get bitten accidently by an overeager “treat taker”…so I rethought that one.
As for meningitis…I’ve had it…got it while I was in college, living in the dorm hundreds of miles from my dog…and in those days the boys even lived on the other side of the campus from the girls. 🙂 So I tend to agree with those of you who think other humans are far more dangerous.
As for Steve the Yorkie…he probably has good reason to worry about gettin’ bad stuff from Humans!
Hawk aka BrownDog’s Momma