Sleeps With Dogs

Sleeps With Dogs    

   By now you’ve probably heard the brouhaha about the reported dangers of sleeping with your pets.  In their article, Drs. Bruno Chomel and Ben Sun from the University of California at Davis conclude that public health risks can be associated with this practice. The relatively modest conclusions from this article seem to have been blown out of proportion. 

Just a few of the headlines on the web that reported on this article are:

“sleeping with your pooch bad for health”

“national study says those who sleep with pets are sick more often”

It’s not surprising that’s NOT what the research article says.  The authors quote several incidents of people – primarily children and immune compromised individuals – contracting serious diseases as a result of close contact with pets, including sleeping with them. 

The article also provides a review of eight different diseases that can be transmitted from pets to people.  Interestingly, although the title of the article is “Zoonoses in the Bedroom” many of the cases of disease transmission the authors cite occurred from being licked by pets, or kissing them, unrelated to whether they sleep with their owners or not.

Given that more than half of U.S. pet owners sleep with their pets, the evidence indicates that the frequency of occurrence of serious diseases or illnesses among healthy individuals resulting from the practice is small.  In a number of examples reported in the Chomel and Sun paper, the pets were already known to be ill when they were allowed to sleep in their owners’ beds. 

Other examples involved people who were already ill or were at risk due to recent surgery or open wounds.  And in fact the few correlations between ONLY sleeping on the bed and disease occurrence among U.S. pet owners reported in the article barely rose to statistical significance.  

The anecdotal cases of out of the ordinary examples don’t seem to be representative of the typical U.S. pet household where healthy people choose to share their bed with healthy, well cared for pets.

In interviews, a number of veterinarians have been quick to point out that the potential risk of pet ownership are far less than the benefits, at least for healthy individuals.  And from the pet side of things, a 2003 study found that dogs that sleep in or near their owners’ beds were more likely to stay in the home rather than surrendered to an animal shelter, than those that slept elsewhere or were not allowed to sleep in the house (Duxbury, M. et al, 2003, JAVMA 223 (1): 61-66).  Woof woof!

Most telling, even Chomel and Sun do not make a “blanket” recommendation (we couldn’t resist!) to ban pets from the bedroom.  Instead the article concludes with “pet owners should seek regular veterinary care for their pets”.  Denver veterinarian Dr. Apryl Steele and others advise pet owners to “use common sense”. 

In our house, we'll continue to give our Irish setter Coral kisses on her cute little nose, allow her to shower us with sloppy dog kisses in return, and she will continue to occupy her preferred place on our bed, as our dogs and cats before her have done. 

Our personal preferences differ from those of Dr. Chomel, who although he currently doesn’t have any pets, was quoted as saying "There are private places in the household, and I think our pets should not go beyond next to the bed,"  and that his cat “…knew this was not the room for her.”  Wonder how she figured that out?

Members of our BehaviorEducationNetwork site will find a link to the  complete Chomel and Sun article in BEN.





  • The cat worked out the bedroom was not for her…………………does such a cat exsist? the only way I can keep my cat of the bed (not that I want too) is if to use a certain quilt he absolutly hates the feel of…..or it's just too hot a night anyway!

    • Suzanne & Dan

      Reply Reply

      Well – that was sort of our point. There had to have been something unpleasant occur for his cat not to want to come in the bedroom, and I doubt it was something as innocuous as a quilt!

      Although Dan has always maintained that nighttime affection from cats is temperature dependent!


  • Linda McLaren

    Reply Reply

    I've ALWAYS slept with my dogs, and usually more than one.  Currently we have two in the bed, and 3 others in crates near us.  In all my years of having dogs I can point to no one sickness I can blame on them, yet I've caught the flu from my kids and colds from my hubby.  There is nothing better than doggie kisses, I consider myself blessed beyond belief that they consider ME worthy.
    Suzanne, you remember Nancy using our Monroe in her presentation (Nancy always called her Rowie…)…well Monroe (Roey) now has 3 sisters and a brother and has hosted a long list of rescues taking advantage of sanctuary in her home while they were transported from the shelter to a rescue. In fact, she has accompanied me as we transport those lucky pups to their freedom.  So yes, she and her sister Maya sleep with us on the bed.  She deserves nothing less.
    Linda McLaren

    • Suzanne & Dan

      Reply Reply

      Don’t think I’ve ever caught anything from my dogs either – except dirty clothes! We love having Coral on the bed with us – wouldn’t have it an other way.

      Suzanne and Dan

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