Study: Sleeping with pets could make you sick

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by Courtney Zubowski/KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on February 14, 2012 at 12:59 AM

Updated Tuesday, Feb 14 at 12:30 PM

HOUSTON—Allowing your pets to sleep next to you could be deadly, according to a study out of California.  

Researchers working on the study found that 56 percent of pet owners sleep with their dogs and felines.

In the study, titled "Zoonoses in the Bedroom," the scientists documented the case of a 9-year-old boy in Arizona who died from the plague after sleeping with his flea-infested cat. 

In another case, a woman got meningitis after kissing the family dog.

"It’s a real concern, but in my experience, 40 years of practice—companion animal practice—here in the Houston area it’s very uncommon, if not rare," said Veterinarian Larry Kornegay, the past president of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

He said the cases documented in the study involve the plague and parasites, date back decades and didn’t happen in Texas.

"The diseases that they mentioned were from back in the 70s and 80s, the plague, those were cases in Arizona and New Mexico," he said.

But even though Kornegay said it’s OK for most pet owners to sleep with their dogs, some – like people with HIV, diabetes or those recovering from surgery—need to be careful.

"If you’re undergoing chemotherapy, if you’re especially young, or even the elderly," he said.

Kornegay said there are common-sense approaches you can take to make sure snuggling doesn’t make you sick. He advised pet owners to take pets to the vet at least once, if not twice a year, give them a bath and wash your hands after playing with them.

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