Undercover pets: The pros and cons of the animal friendly family bed
Here's another example of what my Miami Herald readers can look forward to every weekend. Critique away.
Q: I need you to help settle a family dispute. My wife’s mother says that pets can spread diseases to our children when they sleep on their beds. I say it’s an old wives’ tale. What do veterinarians say?
A: It’s been reported that up to 79% of pet owners allow pets to share beds with their human family members. Despite the popularity of the practice, physician and veterinary groups have taken turns speaking out against human-pet bed sharing for a variety of reasons.
In the case of some physician groups the warnings are human health-based. Confirmed transmission of MRSA skin infections and H1N1 influenza, for example, gives fodder to the speculation that humans who share the covers with their furred family members are more likely to become ill.
While this is certainly more of a possibility with immunosuppressed humans (HIV-positive, transplant recipients or chemotherapy patients, for example), the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer no explicit warnings on this issue beyond the standard warnings for these immunocompromised groups of people.
In fact, when it comes to infectious disease transmission physicians and veterinarians agree there is scant evidence that healthy, well cared-for pets are detrimental to human health under these circumstances. Indeed, human family members are much more likely to transmit diseases during bed-sharing than are our pets.
Though infectious disease transmission may be rare between healthy humans and pets who sleep in the same bed, veterinarians don’t always agree that allowing dogs to sleep on human beds is a good thing, behaviorally speaking.
Puppies predisposed to dominance or aggression may develop these behaviors when allowed to sleep with humans. Housebreaking may also be affected if beds take the place of crates, for example. That’s why bed-sharing should always be delayed until "potty" training is complete and social maturity is achieved, behaviorists suggest.
Housetraining and temperament issues aside, some pets are actually better off not sleeping with humans due to their own health issues. This is most important for older pets or for breeds predisposed to jumping injuries or back troubles.
It’s also argued, however, that pets confer significant psychological and personal safety benefits when they sleep with their human family members. Some sleep studies even show that pets can help insomniacs sleep more deeply.
I’m not sure I’ve helped you out with your dispute but at least I’ve given you lots of ammunition all around. It’s up to you to make of it what you will.