It catches most people off guard to hear that sleeping with your pet may not be the greatest idea. After all, isn’t companionship the reason you got your furry friend in the first place?
But when it comes to your health, think twice before you let your pet snuggle up beneath the sheets with you. It may be bringing along more than warmth and love — your cute and cuddly cat or dog probably harbors some germs, bacteria and bugs. If you do let your pet sleep with you at night, here’s what you may be inviting into your bed with you.
1. Bubonic plague
Yep, you read that right. The bubonic plague is no longer sweeping the streets of Europe, but it’s still out there, and you can catch it from your pet. In fact, between 1977 and 1998, 23 documented human cases of the bubonic plague were attributed to family cats. And it’s not just the feline that puts us at risk. Dogs can carry plague-infested fleas without showing signs of the disease themselves.
Can we all just share a collective “eww!”? Parasites, most commonly roundworms and hookworms (but there are lots of other equally nasty offenders out there, too), are common in dogs and cats according to the CDC. Mostly, these parasites lay their eggs in your pet’s hair, where they can easily be shed onto your sheets. Who wants to sleep with those eggs getting ready to hatch right next to you?
3. Staph infections
4. Other bacterial infections
That whole rumor about your pets’ mouths being super-clean is nothing more than an old wives’ tale according to WebMD. In fact, the mouths of dogs and cats — and other carnivorous animals — are full of bacteria-laden saliva that can lead to extreme sickness in humans, including meningitis and pasteurellosis.
5. Cat-scratch disease
Cat Scratch Fever is not just a song by Ted Nugent. It’s a real disease carried by cats that often show no signs of infection. It’s most often transmitted to humans through bites, scratches and licks from a cat, and according to WebMD, you’re more likely to get it if your cat sleeps in your bed.
6. Fecal matter
It’s time to face the facts. If your dog is like most dogs, it either steps in, plays with or eats (yuck!) poop. And when your dog comes into your house, and your bed, it tracks the poop right along with it. Not only is this gross, but it’s an easy way to transmit parasites and bacteria like E. coli and salmonella. Veterinarian Dr. Carol Osborne recommends spritzing off your dog’s feet with a 50/50 mixture of rubbing alcohol and water when it comes inside to help decontaminate its paws.
You know you can get a tick from a walk in the woods, but did you know you can also get one from your dog? If it has one in its fur and comes to bed with you, the tick might just latch onto you instead of your dog. “Ticks carry many diseases contagious to people, a few of the more notable being Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Anaplasmosis,” said Osborne. “Ticks are especially common in Great Lakes Regions where they are endemic.”
These tiny little bugs are no fun for dogs or humans, and you could be sharing them if you share a bed. “The most common is the mange mite, causing human scabies, which as the name implies is very contagious to people,” said Osborne.
You sleep with a dog, you get fleas. We’ve all heard this before, and right now, I mean it in the most literal sense. Once upon a time, a flea-infested bed was probably your worst nightmare as a pet owner. Seems kind of like small stuff now, doesn’t it?
Before you go, check out our slideshow below.
Originally published Nov. 2015. Updated Sept. 2016.