Pets are considered true family members in a large number of households and provide considerable psychological support, love, and health benefits to their human counterparts. In addition, this relationship becomes one of greater intensity in households where pets are considered the equivalent of children. As such, many pets sleep in bed with their owners; 56% of dog owners and 62% of cat owners slept next to their pets in a U.S. study. Similar findings were noted in surveys from the UK and the Netherlands. It is important for both clinicians and pet owners to maintain awareness of the zoonotic risks implicit in such behaviors. This survey discussed pathogens that may be transmitted through close contact and certain behaviors. A literature search collected and examined peer-reviewed publications that documented human exposure to zoonotic pathogens. Close contact with pets was a risk for several canine and feline zoonoses, including plague (sleeping with pets), Chagas disease (sleeping with pets), cat-scratch disease (sleeping with pets, being licked by pets), pasteurellosis (sleeping with pets, kissing pets, being licked by pets), Capnocytophaga canimorsus septicemia (sleeping with pets, being licked by pets), staphylococcosis (being licked by pets), methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection (sleeping with pets), rabies (being licked by pets), toxocariasis (sleeping with pets, kissing pets, being licked by pets), giardiasis (sleeping with pets, kissing pets, being licked by pets), cryptosporidiosis (sleeping with pets, kissing pets, being licked by pets), cheyletiellosis (sleeping with pets), and pet bites (sleeping with pets).
Commentary: This interesting review revealed that seemingly benign interactions between pet owner and pet may facilitate zoonotic disease transmission in certain cases. It is important for the clinician to carefully query pet owners about the extent of close interactions with their pets and advise them about zoonotic risks. Young, elderly, and immunocompromised individuals are at the greatest risk for zoonotic disease transmission, and appropriate preventive mechanisms should be implemented; these individuals should avoid sleeping with and being licked by pets and should regularly wash hands and exercise appropriate hygiene. Regular veterinary visits are imperative for routine preventive ecto- and endoparasite treatment.—Indu Mani, DVM, DSc
Zoonoses in the bedroom. Chomel BB, Sun B. EMERG INFECT DIS 17:167-172, 2011.