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My Pet World: Any dangers in sleeping in same bed as your pet?

March 08, 2011|By Steve Dale

LAS VEGAS — The following reader questions were answered at the 83rd annual Western Veterinary Conference in Las Vegas from Feb. 20 to 24. Nearly 15,000 veterinary professionals attended it for continuing education. Speakers included many of the world's top experts in veterinary medicine. Several of them agreed to weigh in on your queries.

Question: Is it OK to let your pets sleep in bed with you or not? You've supported the idea, but now I see some don't believe it's a good idea. — J.K., Houston

Answer: You're referring to a study from UC Davis that pointed out potential dangers of sharing your bed with a dog or cat. Much of their report focused on parasite transmission.

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"The truth is that the vast majority of these parasites are preventable, using products recommended by your veterinarian," says Dr. Larry Kornegay of Houston, president of the American Veterinary Medical Assn.

As for reported dangers of being on the wet end of a dog kiss, Kornegay laughs and says, "Well, regular dental care can control much that bacteria."

He adds, "Listen, I'm all for using common sense."

Allowing pets to lick open sores — not a good idea, for example. Or to give you a kiss after having been in the trash — also not a good idea.

Immuno-compromised individuals, for example, should probably not be sharing the bed with a pet. Ask your physician.

"I can tell you humans have shared their sleeping spaces with dogs (actually ancestors of today's dogs) since the Stone Age," Kornegay says. "The human/animal bond has more benefits than potential risks, which are minimized with regular veterinary exams."

Kornegay concedes that his daughter shares her bed with a miniature schnauzer, and sometimes two cats squeeze in, too.

Q: I rescued a kitten at about four weeks old. He's wonderful, but he's always biting me. He'll even give me kisses, then bite. How can I teach him to like me? — T.C.W., Tampa, Fla.

A: I don't know the age of your pet, or how long you've had him.

In any case, veterinary behaviorist Dr. Gary Landsberg, of Thornhill, Ontario, Canada, comments: "You are the social partner with the kitten, assuming there's no other cat in the home. Particularly, if the kitten is still young, my first response is to add a second kitten."

A second kitten will instantly respond to your existing cat's hard biting and stop all play. You need to do that, as well.

"Even better, pre-empt your cat," says Landsberg. "If you see he's about to bite, get up and walk away."

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