Sleeping With Your Pets
Story Date: 2/3/2011

Sleeping with Your Pets


In a recent Emerging Infectious Diseases journal, the authors call out a concern about allowing your pets to sleep with you.  Citing more than 100 zoonotic diseases that can be passed by our pets, Dr. Bruno Chomel states that having a pet in the bed is not a good idea.


Specific cases in the article included a man who developed meningitis after his dog slept with him and licked his hip replacement wound and a young boy who developed plague after sleeping with his cat.


While there is certainly a concern of zoonotic transmission (transmission between animals and humans), the good news is that most of these diseases can be kept at bay with good preventive veterinary care for your pets and common sense hygiene for you. 


Diseases like plague, tularemia and cat-scratch disease are all directly or indirectly connected with fleas.  Using a veterinary approved flea control medication can help control and stop flea infestations in the home. Additionally, making sure all pets in the home are treated for fleas will stop the life cycle.  You should also ask your veterinarian about products that can be used on carpets and furniture to kill flea eggs and flea larvae.


Zoonotic parasites, like hookworms and roundworms, are found in a large majority of puppies and kittens.  It is estimated that about 10,000 people in the US contract roundworms each year.  Some of these people suffer a loss of vision due to the larvae of the worms. Following your veterinarian’s guidelines for strategic de-worming of your pets, as well as the use of monthly heartworm preventives, is instrumental in stopping the transmission of these parasites. You should always pick up your pet’s stool as soon as possible to prevent contaminating your yard.


Good hygiene practices, like washing your hands after playing with your pet, can help minimize any potential spread of bacteria, like MRSA.


Some people are going to be more susceptible to these zoonotic diseases.  Cancer patients, AIDS patients, the elderly and very young children often have suppressed immune systems. It is even more important these individuals ensure their own health by keeping their pets as healthy as possible.


Certified applied animal behaviorist, Dr. Suzanne Hetts says that you shouldn’t worry about behavior issues arising from sleeping with your pet either. She continues by saying that there is an urban myth that you undermine your leadership by allowing dogs on the bed, but there is no evidence that this is true.


Bottom line…there is a risk of catching something from your pet.  However, the risk can be minimized and even removed altogether by following your veterinarian’s recommendations for your pet.


Don’t let unfounded fears keep you from the unconditional love of a pet.  Ask your veterinarian how you can keep your pet healthy and a part of your family.



NC Veterinary Medical Association
1611 Jones Franklin Road, Suite 108
Raleigh, NC 27606-3376
Tel: (919) 851-5850
Fax: (919) 851-5859