Is It Safe to Sleep with Your Pet?

You lock the doors, set the burglar alarm, and climb into bed, with the family dog following close behind. As Fido settles in next to you—in his usual spot under the covers—you feel safe and secure. But are you really? Could there be hidden dangers in your own bedroom, just waiting to attack? We are talking about bacterial, parasitic, and viral diseases and they can be transmitted to you from your pet.

For the upwards of 56% of dog owners and 62% of cat owners who sleep with their pets, this is more than just a habit. Letting a pet sleep in your bed offers comfort, relief from anxiety, and companionship. But should a study conducted by the CDC make you rethink this bedtime routine?

The results of extensive research in the CDC study clearly found that humans were exposed to zoonotic diseases by sleeping with, sharing a bed with, kissing, or being licked by pets. As many as 14% of humans were infected with roundworms. Meningitis, cat-scratch disease (which can come from being licked by infected cats), Chagas disease (which can cause life-threatening heart and digestive system disorders), and even the plague had been transmitted as well. Admittedly, contracting a disease from a pet is rare. But when it occurs, it can be very serious—even deadly—especially in immuno-compromised people and the very young. The elderly are also at risk.

Even with this knowledge, it’s unlikely that people everywhere will kick their pets out of their bed, but there are practical steps you can take to reduce your risk. Because healthy pets carry little risk of disease, regular wellness exams for pets, parasite control, and vaccinations are key. Wash your hands after playing with pets, before preparing food, and after handling feces; and avoid letting your pet lick your face.

An additional concern is allergies. You may not be allergic to your dog or cat, but you may be allergic to the pollens that they come into contact with outside, or to the dust that they crawled through under the sofa. Unless you’re washing the dust and pollen off their fur every night, those allergens are coming to bed with you.

In view of all this, many feel it’s better to be safe than sorry, and are opting to have their furry friend sleep in a pet bed beside their own. While the American Veterinary Medical Association does not have a formal recommendation about people sleeping with their pets, what is clear is that the benefits of having a pet, whether they sleep in your bed or not, far outweigh the small risk they pose.