A report published in the CDC journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, concludes that sleeping with your pets and letting them lick your face can be dangerous. The Center for Disease Control further indicates that dogs and cats can carry germs that cause diseases, spreading them to humans when they lick your face or open wounds.
According to a recent survey of pet owners by the American Pet Products Association, 62% of them slept with their dogs. The survey also found that 62% of cats sleep with their adult owners, and another 13% of cats sleep with children. As much as you love your furry friend, letting them cuddle up with you gives them the perfect opportunity to lick your face, increasing the risk of spreading infectious diseases.
The CDC study cited one case in which a husband and wife were repeatedly infected with Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) infections. Over a period of time it was determined that the family dog was the carrier of this sometimes fatal disease, and it took four months to completely rid themselves of the infections.
A 2009 study reportedly found two cases of meningitis in newborns, both of which were linked back to the family pets. One was attributed to the dog licking the baby’s face, the other due to the cat’s saliva on her pacifier. According to the study, out of 38 babies who developed meningitis within their first month, 27 of them had been licked or sniffed by a dog.
Sleeping with pets or letting pets lick your face can also put you at risk of contracting worms or other bacterial infections, as indicated by the study. Parasites like roundworm are especially prevalent in younger animals, and can be spread by a simple sniff.
All hope is not lost though for the many pet owners who will continue to sleep with their pets. Dr. Matt Roper, a veterinarian with Briarcliff Animal Clinic in Atlanta, Ga. says, “If you can limit your exposure, especially when they’re young, that’s going to be your best bet as far as reducing your transmission rate of any parasites or bacteria”. “As they get older, and you know that they are healthy and you don’t have any parasites, you could, again, stay away from the face, as far as licking and things like that, but if they want to sleep in the bed, that would be OK.”