Pet Vet: Sleeping with your pet

South Bend, Ind. A recent report stated that it is not safe to sleep with your pets and this has caused quite a stir among concerned pet owners, as well as veterinarians.

Our own Pet Vet Dr. Visser joined us on 16 Saturday morning to help separate facts from fear.

Here's what he had to say:

Zoonotic diseases are those that can be transmitted from animals to people, and from people to animals; and what got people’s attention recently was an article that appeared in a recent Emerging Infectious Diseases journal. Researchers described a concern about allowing your pets to sleep with you. In this article, the author cited more than 100 of these zoonotic diseases. Their conclusion was that having a pet sharing the silk sheets 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 incision, and a young boy who developed plague after sleeping with his cat.

Animals don’t carry the meningitis bacteria that people are vaccinated for, so people can’t get that kind from their pets. The one in the article was a different kind of bacteria. While there is certainly a concern of other kinds of zoonotic diseases from pets, the good news is that most of these diseases can be kept at bay with good preventive veterinary care for your pets, and routine hygiene for people in the home.

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, make sure all pets in the home are treated for fleas. This 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.

There are also zoonotic worms, like hookworms and roundworms, found in a large majority of puppies and kittens. And, every year, it is estimated that about 10,000 people in the US contract roundworms. Some of these people suffer a loss of vision due to the larvae of the worms. But as you can imagine, it is not the pet that is the problem – it is the parasite, so follow your veterinarian’s guidelines for strategic deworming of your pets, as well as using broad-spectrum monthly heartworm preventives that control other worms.

You should always pick up your pet’s stool as soon as possible to prevent contaminating your yard. Finally, have stool testing done by the veterinarian at least every 6 months. This is especially important in homes with children.

Overall when it comes to sleeping with your pets, behavioral-wise, you will find different answers from different veterinarians, and when that happens, I always defer to the experts. Dr. Suzanne Hetts, a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist in Denver Colorado, says that you shouldn’t worry about behavior issues arising from sleeping with your pet -- that apparently there is no evidence that this is true.

When it comes down to it, fear the bugs, but love the pets! Your veterinarian is the best source for help.


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