Should you sleep with your pets?
Published on Tuesday, 06 January 2015
Based on letters we receive from our readers, it’s fair to say that many pet owners here are equally happy to share their duvets with their furkids. Although there aren’t any statistics for pet owners in Singapore who sleep with their pets, a survey by the American Pet Products Association shows that 62 percent of cats sleep in their owners’ beds, while nearly half of dogs snooze with their pet parents.
In sickness and in health
Sleeping with a living creature that sheds, licks and scratches in bed inevitably raises concerns over allergies. While it’s widely believed that a pet that sheds little to no fur poses little risk (if any) to one’s health, doctors are quick to point out otherwise. “The major source of allergenic proteins are from saliva, shed skin, urine and bodily fluids, rather than hair or fur,” says Dr Jean Ho, dermatologist at Jean Ho Skin and Laser Clinic. “Although not the direct cause of allergies, a higher level of fur can cause air pollution and provoke sneezing or skin irritation. If you have health conditions like eczema, rhinitis or asthma, you are more likely to develop allergies to furry pets.”
Allergic reactions to pet dander, saliva and other bodily fluids can include skin rashes, skin itch, excessive tearing, sneezing, sinusitis, coughing, and even choking. If a person has respiratory problems or severe allergies, he should avoid sharing his bed with Fido or Puss. However, Dr Grace Heng, veterinarian at The Joyous Vet also highlights that individuals without any existing allergies to their pets should be fine to continue being bedmates with their furkid. “If you don’t react during regular interaction with your furkid, it’s unlikely that sleeping on the bed with your pet will suddenly cause allergies to develop. The body’s immunity does evolve with age, so it can potentially happen, but it’s generally rare,” says Dr Heng.
Besides allergies, there’s also the concern of zoonotic diseases. “I’m not a proponent of having animals sleep on your bed, as it is always possible for animals to carry some infectious or zoonotic disease that they might pass to their owners,” says Dr Simon Quek, veterinarian at Mount Pleasant Animal Medical Centre's Clementi branch. “However, these occurrences are uncommon, especially if your pet is mainly indoors.”
Even with hounds that are walked daily, a thorough wipe-down post-walk should suffice. “If you keep your dog healthy, all its vaccinations are up to date, and it is free of fleas and ticks, the risk is minimal,” says Poh Su Lin, a rehabilitation officer with Save Our Street Dogs (SOSD).
Most pet lovers won’t kick Fido or Puss out of bed, even if they discover their furkids are causing allergies. In such cases, Dr Ho suggests using a high filtration HEPA filter air purifier, regular changing of beddings, frequent bathing of pets, and regular vacuuming.