Is It Safe to Sleep With Your Pet?

Know what's best for you and your favorite cuddle buddy.
By: Patricia Khuly
Dog sleeping in bed with owner.

It’s estimated that most pet owners allow pets to share beds with their human family members. Despite the popularity of the practice, physician and veterinary groups have taken turns speaking out against human-pet bed sharing for a variety of reasons. Let’s take a look why.

In the case of some physician groups, the warnings are human health based. Confirmed transmission of MRSA skin infections and H1N1 influenza, for example, gives fodder to the speculation that humans who share the covers with their furred family members are more likely to become ill.

While this is certainly more of a possibility with immunosuppressed humans (HIV-positive, transplant recipients, or chemotherapy patients, for example), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer no explicit warnings on this issue beyond the standard warnings for these immunocompromised groups of people.

In fact, when it comes to infectious disease transmission, physicians and veterinarians agree there is scant evidence that healthy, well cared for pets are detrimental to human health under these circumstances. Indeed, human family members are much more likely to transmit diseases to each other during bed-sharing than our pets are.

So, It’s Okay to Sleep with My Pet?

Not exactly.

“Although uncommon with healthy pets,” the CDC wrote in a 2011 report, “the risk of transmission of zoonotic agents [those transmitted from animal to human] by close contact between pets and their owners through bed sharing, kissing or licking is real and has been documented for life-threatening infections such as plague.”

Some veterinarians also believe that allowing dogs to sleep on human beds is a not a good thing, behaviorally speaking. Puppies predisposed to dominance or aggression may fully develop these behaviors when allowed to sleep with humans. Housebreaking may also be affected if beds take the place of crates, for example. That’s why bed-sharing should always be delayed until training is complete and social maturity is achieved, behaviorists suggest.

Safety Tips for Sleeping with a Pet

To reduce the health risks associated with bed sharing and other close contact with a pet, the CDC recommends that pets have regular veterinary care. This should include keeping up to date with vaccinations, treating illnesses with medications, and using flea and tick preventives, since often fleas and ticks carry bacteria and diseases that can also be transmitted to people.

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