A recent study published by the Centers for Disease Control has received a lot of press. The study, conducted by a Veterinary Epidemiologist from UC Davis and a Public Health Veterinarian from Sacramento, suggests that sleeping with your dog or cat can lead to infectious diseases in humans. The study has pet owners worried so I thought I would review the study and possibly help clear some concerns.
Fleas on your dog or cat can transmit diseases that can infect people. Plague is a disease caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis and affects the lymph nodes, lungs or blood of people. It is usually seen in rodents; in Northern California, the ground squirrel is the most commonly affected wildlife species. The disease is transmitted by infected fleas or by ingestion of infected rodents. If you live in an area where the Plague is suspected, keep your pets, especially cats, indoors. Bartonella is another bacteria transmitted by fleas and causes Cat Scratch Disease. This disease is most commonly caused by a scratch of a cat which has flea feces around its toenails. Both diseases can be treated with antibiotics but the Plague can be fatal. The best prevention is to keep pets free of fleas by bathing in addition to using either topical or oral monthly flea control products.
Other bacterial diseases that can be transmitted to humans from their pets include Pasteurella, Staphylococcus, and even Methacillin-resistant Staph. species. These infections are usually transmitted from the skin or saliva from your pet when it comes in contacts with open wounds. It can also be transmitted by bite wounds. In rare cases, it can cause serious illness especially in very young children or in the elderly or immunocompromised. Prevention here is simple. Do not allow your pets to lick or come in contact with open wounds, sores, or surgical sites. If they do, wash the area with soap and water. If you are having or have had recent surgery, keep your pet away from the surgical site which may mean having him or her sleep off of the bed for a few weeks. Do not kiss the face of your dog or cat and do not allow them to lick around your nose or mouth. If you or someone in your house has been diagnosed with repeated infection by a Methacillin-resistant Staphylococcus (MRSA), ask your doctor about testing your pet for infection.