Is sleeping with pets unhygienic or does it provide benefits? Many people sleep with pets, and the majority of those tend to be women. There are some benefits to sleeping with a pet, but there are also several reasons why you should not. We shall discuss these below. Whether or not you should is open to debate, and before we discuss the pros and cons of sleeping with your pets, let’s have a look at some statistics on the subject.
According to thelist.com, over 60% of households in the USA have pets, and half of the dog lovers allow their dogs to sleep with them. The same site also reports that a quarter of women have reported that they sleep with their pets compared to just 16% of men. However, it also states that pets can pass on diseases such as the bubonic plague, MRSA, meningitis, and cat-scratch disease among others.
A 2015 American Kennel Club survey indicated that 45% of dog owners welcome their dogs in their beds. You should never allow your children to sleep with their pets due to the number of diseases the children can be exposed to – not to mention the fleas they carry. A survey carried out in 2015 by home design website Houzz, indicated that 53% of cat owners and 41% of dog owners shared their bed with their pets – the highest percentage of the 11 countries included in the survey.
Dog Bites: Don’t forget bites. Dogs in particular can be very jealous, especially of the attention you give to your children. The List published a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that reported from 1989 to 1994 there were 109 fatal dog bites, of which 11 were sleeping infants. These statistics provide compelling evidence that sleeping with your pet is not a good idea. However, there are some positive aspects of why many people still sleep with pets. Here are some of them.
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Health Benefits of Sleeping With Pets
Many people find the health benefits of sleeping with their pets outweigh the risks involved. Among these benefits are:
1. Comfort and Added Warmth
Many people find the warmth and comfort of sleeping with a pet to help them sleep. This, allied to the pet’s rhythmical breathing, warms and soothes them and helps them to sleep. Insomniacs in particular can benefit in this way. However, the ideal temperature for good quality sleep is in the mid-60s Fahrenheit, and sleeping with a pet can be like sleeping on an electric blanket. You will need to drop the temperature in your room by a few degrees if you allow your pet on or into your bed. Check out our sleeping tips for more information on how to get to sleep quickly.
2. Calming Effect
Many people find it difficult to sleep at night and sleeping with a pet often has a calming effect on them and reduces stress and anxiety. By having their pets near them when in bed, such people may often find the calming effect helps them to relax, to worry less about the day’s problems and to fall asleep. This is large because contact with pets raises the amount of oxytocin in your brain. This is a hormone that produces a sensation of calmness, well-being, and love. This reduction of stress and anxiety can help you to sleep.
3. Sense of Security
Many people feel more secure when they have their dog sleeping with them. Even the presence of another helps. For those without a partner and who normally sleep alone, just another living body beside them can give many lonely people a feeling of safety and security.
The more formidable the animal the more secure they will feel. Thus a German Shepherd or Rottweiler would offer more security than a Pekingese or a Chihuahua. However, either of the smaller dogs would be better than none in offering perceived security. In fact, even a cat would be better for them than sleeping alone. Another benefit of sleeping with your pet is that the bond between you will become stronger.
Health Issues of Sleeping With Pets
Should you sleep with pets irrespective of these perceived benefits of doing so? Here are some reasons why it may not be healthy for you, and in fact may even be dangerous to sleep with a pet. The first is disturbed sleep.
1. Sleep Disturbance
A 2014 study carried out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that of 150 patients, 41% stated that pets had either no effect or a positive effect on their sleep, while 20% stated that their sleep was disturbed by pets at least some of the time. A similar study by the Mayo Clinic Center for Sleep reported that over 50% of owners reported that their pets disturbed their sleep.
Sleep disturbance can lead to other health issues and also to a reduced level of alertness during the day. This can lead to accidents, poor decision-making depending on the employment of the persons affected, or in the case of students, to a reduced ability to absorb information.
Pets can disturb your sleep for several reasons. Dogs may want to go outside during the night and will wake you to let you know. Small dogs in particular are susceptible to this. Cats might wake up during the night (they are nocturnal animals after all) after deciding to groom you by giving you a lick with their rough tongue or padding around in circles to make their bed more comfortable for them.
2. Potential Diseases
Another potential issue when you sleep with a pet is the risk of disease. Some of these were mentioned in the opening paragraphs: MRSA, meningitis, cat-scratch disease, and bubonic plague are just three potentially serious diseases. Yes, bubonic plague still exists and you can get it from fleas on your pets. Staph (MRSA) is identified by pimples or boils which get red and swollen or filled with pus. It is difficult to treat, and best avoided if possible. It can be passed on from pets coming into contact with your skin. Pets can also pass on diseases by licking you or your children on the face or by kissing them.
Cat scratch disease another infection that is caused by fleas. Around 20,000 people get this every year. This disease attacks the kidneys and can also damage the spleen and liver. It is a serious condition that infects around 20,000 people every year, and can result in the death of those infected.
If you still want to share your bed with your pet, then make sure that you bathe the animal regularly to keep it clean, keep it free of fleas and take it to the vet regularly to make sure it is healthy. A failure to do this could result in the transmission of diseases from animal to human.
3. Asthma and Allergies
People who have asthma or are allergic to domestic animals such as dogs and cats should not sleep with pets. Allergens from pets can be released onto bedding, your clothing, and bed frames. So even if the pet is not present in the room, humans can be affected by them. If you have an allergy then you must install a HEPA filter in your bedroom if you continue to insist on sleeping with your pet.
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America has stated that almost a third of humans are allergic to cats and dogs, and can be severely affected by them. Almost 10% of people suffer from asthma and are susceptible to allergic reactions by coming into close contact with their pet, particularly if that contact is prolonged (such as sleeping with it overnight.)
4. Immune Problems and Other Issues
Sleeping with pets is not advised if you have problems with your immune system. The same is true if you have open wounds. Their healing may be seriously compromised if the wound comes into close contact with a pet. The same is true for the young members of your family. Children and infants should not be exposed to risk from pets sharing their bed. Sure, they may be delighted to do so, but it is not good for their health. Even disturbed sleep can affect a young child’s health.
5. Possessive and Aggressive Behavior and Biting
A dog sleeping in a child’s room can easily develop aggressive or possessive behavior. A child may be at risk from a dog that believes the child to be trespassing in its space. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that in the years from 1989 and 1994 109 fatal dog bites were recorded. Children accounted for 57% of such deaths, and sleeping infants were the victims in 11 of them. This is sufficient evidence to state that dogs should not be permitted to sleep in young children’s bedrooms.
The same can be true of your own bedroom. A dog could easily become jealous of a husband who climbs into his wife’s bed – a bed that the dog sees as his. He (the dog that is) might growl or even snap to protect what he regards as his territory, or even just to protect the wife from an interloper. Large dogs can be particularly dangerous if they attack adults, or even children, to protect the owner they normally sleep with and are trying to defend.
An additional risk can arise if your dog has a nightmare – yes dogs can have bad dreams too! If it suddenly awakes feeling danger it may bite out at you or members of your family, particularly if they are moving in the bed. If you know that your dog is susceptible to bad nightmares from whines and other noises it makes when sleeping, then train it to sleep elsewhere in your bedroom. Being in the same room as you might be enough for it.
Set Rules for Your Dog
According to webmd.com, a survey of pet owners by the American Pet Products Association reported that almost 50% of dogs sleep in their owner’s beds. The survey reported that 62% of small dogs, 41% of medium-sized dogs, and 32% of large dogs sleep with their owners. Another survey indicated that 55% of pet owners interviewed said that they slept with at least one dog in their bed.
This being the case, you must train your dog to accept some rules. It is important that your dog knows that there are boundaries, and knows what it can and cannot do. Here are some ideas on what these rules should be.
Teach the dog that it is your bed it is sleeping in: It is important that the dog does not think that your bed is his – or hers! If the dog tries to claim your part of the bed for itself then move it off. Set it where it is allowed to sleep. Whatever you do, don’t allow it to sleep in your partner’s space. That is a recipe for disaster, and the dog may attack your partner if it thinks that he or she is invading its space on the bed. Even if you have to allow your dog only ON your bed (not IN it) or allow it to sleep on its own bed next to yours, then it will understand its limits and not think that it must protect you from interlopers into your bed.
Don’t allow the dog under the covers: As suggested above, it is better to train the dog to understand that it is permitted to sleep with you, but not under the covers with you. Apart from helping control aggression, this will protect you from any parasites on the dog, dirt it may carry in on its paws, or allergens if you are prone to allergies. If you must allow it in, then use a water-resistant, anti-allergenic mattress protector. This will increase the life of your mattress.
Wash your pet regularly: Cats generally keep themselves clean, but dogs do not. If you regularly wash your dog then you will help to eliminate or minimize it by bringing dirt or allergens into the bed, particularly if you allow it under the covers with you.
Walk the dog at bedtime: Take the dog for a walk at bedtime. This will make sure both that it doesn’t poop in the bed or on the bedroom floor, and doesn’t wake you up whining to get out. Get your dog used to going out at bedtime and immediately when you get up in the morning.
Abolish aggression: Do not permit your dog to be aggressive in the bedroom. If it becomes aggressive towards you or anybody else in the bedroom, then banish it so it knows that aggression is not allowed. Not permanently, but immediately it becomes aggressive, then let it back in at night. Dogs are good learners and it will soon know that aggression is not allowed.
Set Rules for Yourself
It is not just for your pets that rules must be set! You also need to set rules for the humans in your household, particularly if you have a dog as your pet. As inferred above, there are risks involved in allowing a pet into your bed – particularly a dog. The larger the dog and the more aggressive the breed the greater the risk. These rules apply to all members of your family.
Try not to have arguments with your partner: Try not to argue with your partner when the dog is present. It may believe that your partner is the enemy and threatening you and then attack your partner in the belief that it is protecting you, particularly if this happens in the bedroom. Cats are not so emotionally attached.
Be careful if you have a weak immune system: If your immune system is weak, or you have a condition that can weaken it, you should avoid allowing pets to share your bed. Such conditions make it easier for pathogens or germs borne by your pet to make you ill.
Avoid pets if you have asthma or are prone to allergies: People prone to allergies can become ill or at least develop an itch when they come into contact with pet dander. Dander is composed of tiny flakes of animal skin. You can also have an allergic reaction to their saliva and traces of urine. Symptoms can be similar to asthma with difficulty in breathing.
Don’t allow pets to sleep with infants: Infants are too small to allow pets to sleep with them. Apart from being at particular risk from per bacteria and other germs that may be carried by your pet, but it is easy for them to roll over onto the child’s face – this is a definite risk of SIDS.
Do not allow dogs to sleep with young children: In addition to infants, don’t allow dogs to sleep with young children. If dogs are aroused suddenly, they may bite a child by instinct or error. It’s best to avoid this type of incident by not allowing the two to share a bedroom let alone a bed!
Get the right mattress: If you intend to allow your pet to sleep with you then make sure you have a mattress with good isolation of motion and excellent edge support. Memory foam or latex mattress would be best. It should also be large enough to sleep you and your partner if you have one and also the animal. You should also clean your mattress frequently to remove any pet residue: hairs, saliva, skin cells, and urine traces. Check out how to clean a memory foam mattress here.
Train Your Dog: It is difficult to train cats – dogs are much easier. Train your dog to sleep in the same position on the bed every night. Preferably closer to your feet than your head. Also train it only to get onto the bed when you command it to, and to get off when commanded. You cannot compromise with a dog – it must know what is allowed and what is not. Some people find it best to train their dog to sleep by your bed in a dog bed or crate.
Follow the above tips and rules and you should be able to safely sleep with your pet. If your children want their pet to sleep with them do not allow it unless they are in their teens. Younger children may be susceptible to bites or illnesses. Your younger children can have the dog sleep in their room, but not on the bed. Infants should be sleeping nowhere a pet can access.
The only pets you should consider allowing to sleep in or on a bed are cats and dogs. Dogs create more problems than cats, particularly larger dogs or snappy dogs such as terriers. Birds and small animals should sleep neither on your bed nor even in your bedroom since, not only are they more fragile, but they tend to carry more diseases.
Questions and Answers on Sleeping With Pets
Here are some questions we have received regarding sleeping with pets, the first being the most popular.
That is a difficult question to answer. In general, it is safest not to, although you can if you follow the advice above. There will always be a risk if pets, particularly dogs, are allowed to sleep under the covers with you. Those most at risk are infants and then small children. It is best not to allow pets in their room, but if they must then the pets should be trained to sleep on the floor on a bed specially designed for them.
Yes, you can, particularly if kiss your dog, or it licks your mouth or face while you sleep. Cats are not so hazardous, although they may lick your face if you have been eating fish or anything sweet. In general, dogs are more of a risk because they are generally bigger.
There are many potential hazards that dogs and cats (and other pets) can bring to your bed or that of your kids. Fleas and ticks are two common ones, both of which can bring serious diseases such as Lyme disease which is a serious bacterial infection commonly spread by ticks. In fact, having a cat or dog in the house almost doubles your chances of coming across an infected tick. The pet itself cannot spread the disease, but any live ticks it is carrying will.
Dogs and cats can also bring bacteria such as campylobacter and other bacteria into your bed – including the bubonic plague (Black Death.) They can also bring parasites such as tapeworms and ringworm from feces and urine. This is not necessarily theirs, but can be carried from other locations in their fur. This is more likely with predatory cats than domestic dogs.
Cats are nocturnal animals, meaning that they spend a large part of their life awake at night and sleeping during the day. You can have your sleep disturbed, or even wakened up, at a very early hour with cats playing with you or grooming you.
Some do and some don’t for various reasons. Dogs could like sleeping in your bed because it is safe: it is elevated, and in a strategically good position to keep them safe from predators. They often lie awake looking around the room to make sure they are safe. Other potential reasons are that they like your warmth and they love you. They may also feel safe with you and want to protect you from harm. Some don’t because they think your bed is theirs.
It is not bad, but you should not encourage your dog to sleep under the covers with you, particularly with children for reasons detailed above. Train your dog to sleep ON the bed, not IN it.
Should You Sleep With Pets: Conclusion
Whether or not you should sleep with pets depends upon how you sleep with them. In general, it can be risky sleeping with a dog under the covers. That is mainly because dogs can bite, particularly if they are awakened suddenly in fright and react accordingly! It is safer to allow your dog on the bed but not in it, particularly with children. The same is true of cats to avoid scratching. You should never allow any animal in or on an infant’s bed – this has been the cause of several deaths.
Cats are safest because they are nocturnal animals and are more likely to lick you and groom you while you sleep. They are gentler than dogs but can pass on disease, particularly if they have fleas. However, many people rely on the presence of their pets in the bedroom. They can help you to sleep if you find this difficult and it also helps to strengthen the bond between you and your pets. Make sure, however, that you set rules for yourself and your pet – and stick to them. Do that and sleeping with pets should be safe and it provides the security a dog tends to bring.