It isn’t just dog trainers and the occasional finicky spouse who want you to keep your pets off the bed. A new report in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases found that of the 250 known zoonotic diseases, which are transmitted between humans and animals, more than 100 are derived from domestic pets — yes, even from your precious Sparkles or Daisy.
In one case a 69-year-old man, whose dog slept under the covers with him and licked his hip replacement wound, came down with meningitis. Another incident involved a 9-year-old boy who got plague, a potentially deadly bacterial infection, from sleeping with his flea-infested cat.
Other infections transmitted to people after sleeping with their cat or dog, kissing them or being licked by the pet include: hookworm, ringworm, roundworm, cat scratch disease and drug-resistant staph infections, the report said.
The good news is that the risk of your pet making you sick is relatively small, at least compared to the sheer number of people who sleep with their pets (more than half of all pet owners in the U.S.). And the health benefits of owning a pet outweigh its risks: studies show that having a pet can lower blood pressure, reduce stress, improve physical fitness and increase happiness.
To lower your risk of infection, Dr. Peter Rabinowitz of the Yale School of Medicine and co-author of the text book Human-Animal Medicine, told HealthDay that pet owners should keep animals out of the sleeping environment, wash their hands (or any other area of contact) thoroughly after handling or being licked by pets, and take extra care with puppies, kittens and older pets that have diarrhea — often considered “high risk” carriers.