Is It Safe To Let Sleeping Dogs Lie In Your Bed

January 26, 2011

Photo of Cardiff Sleeps On My Pillow As Often As He Can

Do you sleep in bed with your dog? Have you ever considered the possibility you may get sick from sharing your personal bed space with your canine companion. What about your pet getting sick from you?

USA Today recently featured the article Sleeping next to pets could be harmful, study says by Elizabeth Weise. In the article, Bruno Chomel, a professor at the University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine notes that close contact, such as that which occurs when pets sleep in our beds, could contribute to the spread of a variety of infectious organisms. According to Chomel, “there are private places in the household, and I think our pets should not go beyond next to the bed”.

Chomel notes Bubonic plague (caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis), Chagas disease (brought on by the protozoan Trypanosoma Cruzi) and cat scratch disease (caused by the bacteria Bartonella sp.) as the diseases that could follow zoonotic (transfer between different species) transmission from a pet to a person.

In my 10 years of veterinary practice, I have only had a single client report infection with one of the above diseases. A woman with a compromised immune system had been infected with cat scratch disease. I am unsure as to if she was sharing her bed space with your cat, but her doctor determined that she was infected by the skin trauma caused by her cat’s claws (declaw anyone?…kidding).

I have to consider the converse of the argument that we humans are at risk from our pets. How about the risks our pets face from contact with humans?

I never thought 2009 H1N1 (Swine Flu) could be transmitted from a person to their pet. I then found myself writing H1N1 virus found in a feline and ferrets, followed by:
H1N1 infects second feline
H1N1 Kills Oregon Cat
Los Angeles Cat is California’s First Confirmed 2009 H1N1 Virus Infection in Domestic Feline
Swine Flu Infects Dogs in China
First US Canine 2009 N1N1 Infection Confirmed in New York

Even if we train our pets to sleep next to our bed on the floor, they still could be exposed to a variety of dangers lurking in the confines of our bedroom. Have you ever considered the potential health hazards your sleeping pills, ear plugs, or glass of water you keep on your bedside stand could pose to your pet? Well, I did and wrote Pet Care 101- Is Your Bedroom Safe for Your Pet. Read it, then organize your bedroom in a fashion to promote harmony among species.

In general, using good sanitary habits can help to keep you from catching a disease from your pet. Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and warm water after touching your pet. Practice regular grooming habits to keep pathogens off of your pet’s fur. Don’t let your pet lick your face (especially no french kissing!). Minimize external parasite infestation on your pet by using topical or oral species-appropriate veterinary products. Finally, vacuum your home (and empty the canister or throw away the bag far from your house) and wash all bedding on a weekly basis.

These are all common sense things of which we occasionally need to be reminded their importance.

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Copyright of this article (2011) is owned by Dr. Patrick Mahaney, Veterinarian and Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist. Republishing any portion of this article must first be authorized by Dr. Patrick Mahaney. Requests for republishing must be approved by Dr. Patrick Mahaney and received in written format.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Jana Rade January 26, 2011 at 11:06 PM

To me this sort of thing is just a diversion, escape from focusing on real problems.

Reminds me of my old country (Czech Republic) after revolution. Country in big trouble but the most important subject to resolve was the name of the country. To hyphenate or not to hyphenate. That was the question. That was what the taxpayers paid their government to spend weeks pondering.

In case you’re curious the country ended up splitting up.

It seems to be human tendency to focus on little things they feel they can tackle when overwhelmed by REAL problems.

Patrick Mahaney January 27, 2011 at 8:58 AM

Thank you for your comment and I totally agree re: this “no pets sleeping in our beds” mentality as a “diversion”. What about the positive aspects of pets sleeping in our beds? Closeness, companionship, warmth, etc are all things that benefit both people and pets.
Dr. PM

Michele C. Hollow January 27, 2011 at 1:44 PM

When I had dogs, they slept on the bed. My cat often sleeps on my pillow. I just feel safer knowing he’s there, and my hubby is right next to me! I just get annoyed when Earl Gray, my cat, wakes me up for a drink of water. He doesn’t drink from bowls. He prefers the tap!

Patrick Mahaney January 27, 2011 at 9:25 PM

Thank you for your comments Michele.
I always feel more secure when my dog, Cardiff, sleeps next to me. He often likes to come back to bed and sleep with my if my partner gets up early.
Your cat Early Gray sounds like a rather insightful feline!
Dr. PM

Priscilla Edwards February 24, 2011 at 1:08 PM

Every opportunity I have, I need to share with people the DANGERS in bringing your pets for acupuncture treatment. BE AWARE that unlike humans who administer the treatment to humans, VETERINARIANS ARE NOT MONITORED BY ANY PROFESSIONAL GROUP once “certified.” My healthy dog’s spine was severely bruised by a veterinarian and after two months of taking her to every specialist throughout New England, she NEVER RECOVERED. I currently have a formal complaint filed with the Secretary of State to give my girl a voice (there is absolutely no monetary gain from this process). DO YOUR RESEARCH FIRST, AND PROCEED WITH THE GREATEST CAUTION!!!!

anne February 24, 2011 at 1:30 PM

i have had pets as a young child… yes, even then my dog slept in my bed …. when i got married had a dog…. it slept with me and my husband….. when i had children yes still had a dog… it slept in my bed…. now i am 60 years old …. and, my dog sleeps with me. as long as i have a mind and health i will have a dog…. yes, it will slept with me.what i think is more important is to make our pets food and…… and…. the shots they get once a year or rabies evey 3 years more safe.to me i have used home made food since the 1960′s and all my dogs live 20 + years…. so….. do you think more safety should be looked at waht a pet eats than if they sleep with you…. i think if the dog is taken to the vet and has all the things to make them safe then… they are probly more healthier than most people. mine get checked every six months … to only hear how healthy they are. let’s pay more attention on the food they eat and the shots to make them more safe… so many dog’s die from the shots theyt get every year and on down the road from the shots health issues i never give shots before checking w/ the new tilter test first after all puupy shots and that first year shot….and i make sure their homemade food is just right with all needed every meal… never had a dog with flea’s or health issues yet never gotten sick from a pet … alot of years sleeping w/ my dogs from age 3 years to 60 years.not sick yet!

Patrick Mahaney February 24, 2011 at 10:43 PM

Thank you for your comments. I, too, let my canine companion, Cardiff, sleep in the bed with me (on top of the covers). The keep to keeping ourselves and our pets safe from illness is to use good sanitary habits, eat healthful foods, and minimize exposure to infectious agents that could have long term consequences.
Like you, I recommend antibody titers to my veterinary patients, then providing a booster to the vaccination if the titer is below the normal level.
I hope you have many more years of great quality of life with your animal companions.
Dr PM

Patrick Mahaney February 24, 2011 at 10:46 PM

Priscila,
I am so sorry to hear about our dog’s experience with acupuncture. You are absolutely right about doing your research before pursuing acupuncture treatments for a pet. I recommend pet owners seek veterinary acupuncture with veterinarians that have been through IVAS, Chi Institute, of Colorado State programs, are certified, and have kept up their certification through continuing education (and day to day practice of the art of Chinese medicine).
Dr PM

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