If you spend your nights cuddled up with Fido or snuggled in with Spot, you may need to invest in an electric blanket and a dog bed. A report from the Centers for Disease Control shows that while owning pets can be good for your health overall, sleeping with them is not. The main cause for concern is the transfer of zoonotic diseases from pets to their owners that can result in life threatening conditions.
The majority of U.S. households have at least one pet and of pet owners; more than half of all households allow their pets to sleep with them on a regular basis. Women are more likely than men to allow pets to share their bed, but children are at the highest risk for contracting a zoonotic disease from close contact with a pet. The danger is not specific to one kind of pet, the most common household pets like cats and dogs can carry diseases capable of infecting humans.
Unfortunately, the CDC also recommends against kissing pets and letting them lick your hands or face as both activities allow for the transmission of disease from pet to owner. The report cites specific cases where pets licking areas of broken skin like sores or abrasions lead to fatal infections. There was even an outbreak of salmonella, which is generally associated with raw or uncooked meat, which was attributed to contaminated cat and dog food and pet contact.
There are several zoonotic diseases that can be transferred from pet to owner and that can lead to life-threatening conditions. About 20,000 people a year get cat scratch disease, a bacterial infection caused by fleas that impact the lymph nodes and cause severe damage to the liver, kidneys, and spleen that results in death. There are documented cases of pets transmitting the plague, internal parasites, meningitis, and MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) to their owners.
Pets pick up the bacteria, germs, and other sources of disease just by being pets. Fleas are notorious for spreading disease, especially the plague. Pets also eat other animal’s droppings, roll around in whatever they want, and kill, eat, and play with dead animals. All of these provide ample opportunity for deadly bacteria to make its way into our homes, into our beds, and onto our skin.
There are things that pet owners can do that will help reduce the risk of contracting a zoonotic disease from their pets. The first is to segregate sleeping quarters as explained in the study. The second is to stop giving your pet kisses and find alternative ways to show your affection. Third, be very conscious of washing your hands after playing with, petting, or otherwise interacting with your pet. Keep your hands away from your face until after they are washed and avoid direct contact between your pet and your face.
It is also very important to look after the health of your pet through regular veterinary visits. Make sure your pet gets the necessary preventative measures to keep them free of parasites and follow the schedule recommended by your vet for de-worming and flea control.
About Valley Sleep Center:
Since 2002, Valley Sleep Center, accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, has provided Arizona with diagnostic sleep disorder testing in a home-like atmosphere, ensuring a comfortable, relaxing experience for patients. Their Board Certified Sleep Medicine Specialists consist of experienced and knowledgeable physicians who provide expert advice across a multitude of sleep related disorders including insomnia, sleep apnea, snoring, excessive daytime sleepiness, hypertension, sleepwalking, and pediatric sleep problems. They accept most insurance plans as well as Medicare. For more information contact Lauri Leadley at 480-830-3900; http://www.valleysleepcenter.com.