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Contact with Pets – How Close is Too Close?

Source – University of California, Davis
A paper due to be published in the February issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases sheds light on the question, How close is too close when it comes to being with pets?

The authors, Bruno Chomel and Ben Sun, reviewed estimates of people from several countries reporting that they slept with their pets or allowed the animals to lick or kiss them. According to Chomel, professor of zoonoses in the University of California’s School of Veterinary Medicine, and Sun, state public health veterinarian for the California Department of Health, the estimated percentage of pet owners who allow dogs or cats on their beds ranges from 14% to 62%.

Pets, now an important part of our lives, share our houses, bedrooms, and even our beds. However, along with the benefits of such close contact (relief of stress, exercise) comes the risk of contracting illness. Pets who appear to be healthy can carry parasites, bacteria, or viruses that cause mild to life-threatening illness in their owners. Chomel and Sun looked at case studies of several diseases associated with close contact between humans and pets. In one case, a man whose dog slept under the covers with him and licked his hip replacement wound came down with meningitis, while in another, a 9-year-old boy whose flea-infested cat slept with him came down with plague. Other diseases that can be contracted as a result of close contact include bartonellosis, Chagas disease and Pasteurella infection.

The authors conclude that although the risk of falling ill from sleeping with, kissing, or being licked by pets is real, the risk can be reduced by keeping pets healthy. Regular veterinary care is key to having a healthy pet and enjoying the benefits of pet ownership.

What do you think? Do you let your pet sleep on (or even in) your bed? Isn’t this just part of the close bond that many pet owners enjoy with their pet? Or do you think we have gone too far? Let us know your views! Post a comment below.

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