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Don't Let Your Dog's Lick Make You Sick

We love them, we feed them, we hug them…but are we catching germs from our family pets?

By Amy Ahlberg


Don't Let Your Dog's Lick Make You Sick

Sharing the love could mean sharing your dog's germs.

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—The family pet is a hugely important part of many households; in fact, pets are often treated more like beloved relatives than like domesticated animals. And having a pet in your home brings many benefits, including psychological support, companionship, stress reduction, and even good health habits (like those daily walks). Considering all those things your pet does for you, it’s natural to want to treat your animal cohabitant in a princely fashion in return. However, a recent report in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s journal Emerging Infectious Diseases points out a downside of sharing living space with a four-legged friend.

THE DETAILS: When the family pet is treated as a smaller, furrier, human, he or she is typically allowed to take up prime real estate on the bed. In fact, it’s estimated that up to 62 percent of pet owners allow their dogs and cats on their beds. But this practice comes with risks of infectious disease. A zoonose (also called a zoonosis) is an infectious disease that can be transmitted from animals to humans, and vice versa. The report delineates some types of cases of human infection via animals that have been documented; the zoonotic pathogens include C. canimorsus, Pasteurella spp., MRSA, and even plague. While it’s uncommon for this to happen with healthy pets, the risk for transmission of zoonotic agents by close contact between pets and their owners through bed sharing, kissing, or licking is real.

WHAT IT MEANS: It's likely that your family pet is more beneficial than detrimental to your household, so don't go posting an "adopt me" message on Facebook yet. But do be sure to follow some pet best practices to reduce your risk and still feel close to with your furry friend. We asked study author Bruno B. Chomel, MD, professor at the School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California–Davis, for tips on staying safe. Here’s his expert advice:

• Be a responsible pet owner. “First, keep your pet healthy: Schedule proper vaccinations, veterinary checkups, routine deworming, and regular use of a preventive against ectoparasites, mainly fleas," Dr. Chomel says.

• Wash up. Frequent hand washing is a good habit to get into if there's a critter living under your roof. Make sure the whole family knows to wash hands, face, and other body parts after being licked by the family pet, and after any extended physical contact.

• Watch the kids. Anyone whose immune system may not be up to snuff—young children, old folks, people who are ill or otherwise immunocompromized—shouldn't sleep with a pet, or have that kind of extended close contact.

• Reserve the bed for humans. Not everyone's willing to give in on this point. But the healthiest option is to let family pets, and their germs, sleep in their own beds. "It’s preferable to give pets their own sleeping area, even if they’re sleeping in the same room with you,” says Dr. Chomel.

Filed Under: INFECTION, PET CARE

Published on: February 24, 2011



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Dogs licking and sleeping in bed?

Another risk that all may consider is the spot on flea treatments which travel to every hair follicle...so when your pet gets into bed with you and leaves hairs behind...I would imagine that those hairs are also coated with poison...imidacloprid used in Advantage is finally being evaluated by the EPA for endocrine disruption because of so many complaints filed...pyrethroids I believe are also being evaluated...not sure if fipronil is but you can bet that it's not only not good for your pet...it's not good for people either.

DogMom

I think this article started out with the best of intentions, but I'm going to take a stab in the dark here and guess that most of us reading this article grew up around pets and now have them in our own homes. And we're reponsible pet owners, taking our beloved "family members" to the vet regularly, providing vaccinations, etc. I doubt the irresponsible pet owners, who have the highest likelihood of contracting the plague from their pets, are even members of this site, let alone reading this article. I've seen the pathetic treatment some people give their pets, and in my opinion, if you're going to neglect the care of your pets then you deserve to get the plague. I totally agree with "GardenDmpls"...we are going a bit overboard with this whole germophobe mentality. We will never be able to sterilize the world. Some bacteria are actually good for us. And "minesafety" is probably healthier today for getting a little filthy when he/she was younger and building a natural IMMUNITY to germs. I work in the medical field and it is just crazy how paranoid they are about irradicating every germ. We now have to be told when to wash and dissinfect our hands as opposed to using common sense. Common sense...maybe someone could post an article about how to sue common sense. As for me, well I'll still have my dogs sleeping in bed with me.

Don't let you dog's lick make you sick... ?

Did this writer know of the latest study showing that FARM kids have less asthma due to all of the CRAP they get to breathe and play in and live with? I grew up surrounded by animals, barefoot, and my favorite dog sleeping with me every night.... not to mention swimming in the local farm/irrigation ponds. While as an adult I shutter at how filthy I used to get, (only because I do like my daily shower) something must have been "right," and this article just seems off kilter. Not that I want my dog licking my mouth... but give me a break Ms. Ahlberg! Washing up after "extended physical contact?" even today -- I'd be living in a tub with that advice (as my dog sleeps under my desk, keeping my feet warm as I write).

Germophobes

How many cases of plague in the US in the last 10 years were caused by contact with dogs??? Two days ago it was fear of household germs, courtesy of the Clorox Institute. Now it's pet germs. Instead of debunking the main premise, that common bacteria are surrounding us waiting to attack like zombies, you buy into the "all germs are bad so we must avoid and annihilate them", except we use "organic" bacteriacides. Next, I expect to see the article, "Natural Ways to Sterilize your Compost Pile Before it Really Starts to Heat Up".

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