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Good Question: Is Sleeping With Your Pet A Good Thing?

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(credit: CBS) Jason DeRusha
Jason DeRusha filed his first report for WCCO-TV on April Fool's D...
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By Jason DeRusha, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — We know that Americans love their pets, but the number of us who allow our pets to share our beds is a shocker. At least 50 percent of dog owners and 63 percent of cat owners sleep in bed with their animals. So, is that a good idea?

“They’re lovable. They want to be loved,” said Debbie Baker, a Mahtometi dog owner.

Because so many of us allow our pets in the bed, researchers at the University of California-Davis looked into whether that arrangement is causing people to get sick.

In a review published in the journal “Emerging Infectious Diseases”, researchers found evidence of chagas disease, which can cause life-threatening heart disorders, cat-scratch disease, and even bubonic plague.

“There is some risk, but that risk is really low,” said Dr. Jeff Bender, a veterinarian and public health specialist at the University of Minnesota School of Veterinary Science.

Researchers also wrote in the article “Zoonoses in the Bedroom” about parasites being passed from hookworms and roundworms.

The two cases of bubonic plague in the U.S. last year were both traced to fleas, in homes where the dog slept in the bed, according to a report at Wired.com.

“Plague is really rare in the U.S.,” said Bender, “but it’s transmitted by that flea. Pets can get those that carry organism.”

The bigger risk, according to Bender, is allowing our pets to lick us. There have been cases of meningitis and staph infections transmitted by licking.

However, before we totally gross you out, “the risk is really low,” according to Bender.

Zoonoses interests researchers because in general, humans and animals have different kinds of viruses and bacteria, and they don’t often send illness back and forth. For example, you can’t catch the common cold from your pet, and it’s rare for influenza to be shared, he said.

So, if your pet is healthy and you’re healthy, it’s probably OK to snuggle in. On the other hand, Bender recommends that young children and people with compromised immune systems kick their pets to the floor.

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