Sleeping With Pets can Endanger Health

Nicole Ebat

OMAHA (KPTM)- Having a pet by your side while sleeping can endanger your health, according to experts.

One animal lover, Crissy Carew, tucks herself and five dogs in one bed. "My pets will continue to sleep with my husband and I, forever and ever. We love it," said Carew about her crowded crew.

However, even though Carew may love spending close time with her pets, Dr. Mark Rupp of the University of Nebraska Medical Center, said that close contact isn't a good thing. "I don't think that's really a good idea because there is a fair amount of contact with your pet," said Rupp.

A survey from the CDC shows that 56 percent of dog owners in the U.S. let their dogs sleep next to them. Researchers say this cozy cohabitation could breed a living nightmare.

"Sometimes we forget they aren't our children. They are pets and also they have their own life. There are diseases that can be transmitted," said Bruno Chomel, a veterinarian who was one of the lead authors in the study.

"Clearly, when you're sharing the bed, sleeping with the animal, there is a lot more opportunities for these pathogens to be spread from pet to the person," said Rupp.

Researchers tracked people who had close contact with their dogs and cats, by either sleeping next to their pet, or letting their animal lick and kiss them.

The result was diseases, with some pretty nasty side effects. "Stomach cramps, diarrhea, sometimes blood in their stool," listed off Pam Wiese, of the Nebraska Humane Society. "Those (symptoms) are alarming and should be taken seriously," said Wiese.

There have been extremely rare cases of people catching serious disease from their pets, such as rabies, plague, bacteria resistant infections, meningitis and cat scratch fever. More commonly, researchers found that people caught ringworm and/or intestinal parasites.

Fortunately, there are some things that you can do to prevent these diseases from happening, said experts.

"Regular vet visits, making sure that they're vaccinated against certain diseases, making sure that you use flea and tick to keep certain parasites off, keeping them away from playing with dead animals and if you do, then making sure you are using some kind of flea repellent," said Wiese.

Eric Marlows Garrison missed these precautions, and he caught a terrible case of ringworm on his foot from his roommate's cat.

"The experience, to me, was pretty awful," said Garrison.

Medical experts say that one of the most important things pet owners can do is to keep your dog or cat flea free. Flea bites spread disease, which can be extremely harmful to your pet.

Wiese says that keeping your pet free of fleas is a pretty easy thing to do. "If there's a situation where he's done something and you figure he may have come in contact with something dead that may have fleas, or may be able to spread some type of disease, or some type of parasite, give him a bath," said Wiese.

Pet owner Carew says she plans to do just that, and will continue her nightly dog pile, despite the survey's findings.

"If you keep your pets healthy and if you stay pretty healthy, I think that you'll probably be fine. Usually there is at least one pet on my bed, and I'm 48 and I've survived this long," said Wiese, with a smile.