Co-sleeping with pets is not a new concept. In fact, dog owners have been doing it for centuries.
Did you know that some traditional cultures consider co-sleeping with animals beneficial? For example, Aboriginal Australians often slept beside their furry friends during cold nights for warmth and protection from evil spirits.
Susan Nelson, DVM, a clinical associate professor at the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine, told Everyday Health that pets provide extra warmth on a cold night.
If you’re a pet owner, you would agree that there’s nothing quite like the company of a pet. So it’s not surprising that half of pet owners let animals sleep on their beds and treat them like family members.
Researchers explain that so many owners do it because the benefits outweigh the disadvantages, such as their contribution to our mental health. To be honest, it’s tough to beat a warm snuggle of unconditional love. Some of us even consider them as our sleep medicine.
So what are the disadvantages? What are those issues going around that sharing your bed is not advisable?
There is no black and white answer to this, according to vets. So, whether the main issue revolves around hygiene or sleep quality, it’s going to be relative based on you and your pet.
Hygiene & Health Concerns as Risks
Good Pet Health and Boundaries
It’s important to ask yourself the most crucial question: Is your pet is in good health?
Good pet health means no fleas, ticks, other parasites, and illnesses. In addition, they must be up-to-date with their vaccinations, be routinely dewormed, and get regular vet checkups.
If one of these is not crossed out on your list, then you might want to reconsider having your furry friend in your bed.
According to veterinary health expert Dr Jane Heller, cats and dogs carry various bacteria and parasites — some of which can be transferred to humans.
Cuddles with your pets is a ritual before sleeping for all pet lovers. The last thing you want is for you or your pet to experience some separation anxiety after realising that you are not 100% sure they’re clean and healthy.
Some may argue that “pets transmitting diseases to humans” is rare or uncommon. Still, just because it’s uncommon doesn’t mean it never happens.
According to a human-animal study, the risk for transmission of zoonotic agents by close contact between pets and their owners through bed sharing, kissing or licking is real and has even been documented for life-threatening infections.
From 1977 to 1998, there were 23 documented cases of human bubonic plague. These were all cases of cat owners, and sadly, five of these cases were fatal.
In 1985, a 60-year-old woman from the UK was diagnosed with meningitis after admitting to regularly kissing her dog on the mouth.
It might be time to set some boundaries apart from your pet to ensure health and hygiene. According to Dr Heller, a straightforward way to mitigate these is to train your pet to sleep at the end of the bed on a separate blanket.
Minimise Your Risk
It’s not just your pets who must be in good health.
If you have a reduced immune system, it would be best to avoid co-sleeping with your pet.
Young children and pregnant women are discouraged from sharing their beds with their pets or regularly kissing them. Any area licked by a pet, especially an open wound, should be immediately washed with soap and water.
What if you have allergies, and you just can’t help but cuddle? Do you react to your pet’s fur and dander? Honestly, it depends on the type of allergy and the gravity.
The best first step should be talking to your doctor. Dr Amy Stone, a clinical assistant professor at the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine, suggests always consult your doctor.
Although she’s allergic to dogs and cats, she owns and sleeps with her greyhound. She runs a lint roller over her bed to eliminate fur, which helps keep her sneezing under control.
Sleep Fragmentation as a Possibility
Animal sleep cycles differ from our sleep patterns, affecting our sleep quality. As you may know, our pets move, bark (even snore), and therefore disrupt sleep.
Dogs are polyphasic sleepers which means they have about three sleep/wake cycles per night. Cats are nocturnal, so they’re generally more active as we sleep.
We humans, of course, are monophasic sleepers, which means we only have one period of sleep over a 24-hour cycle.
Consider different dog breeds, which may have different sleep patterns. Jerry Klein, the American Kennel Club’s chief veterinary officer, says that a natural guard-dog tends to stay alert for sounds and abnormal movement.
According to a study at Mayo Clinic, pet owners believe their pets either don’t affect or enhance their restful sleep. 41% shared that their pet may help them get more beneficial sleep.
So, sleep fragmentation is relative. It depends on how easy you sleep with your dog, your environment and their reaction to it, and even their breed.
At the end of the day, if you don’t mind those minor disruptions and you and your pet are in perfect shape, then there’s nothing to fear.
Another way to ensure a clean sleeping environment is the Ecosa Mattress, with a removable outer cover for easy washing and an inner waterproof cover to protect the mattress against spills, as well as to keep dust mites at bay.