Is Your Pet Making You Sick?

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Is Your Pet Making You Sick?
No, but here’s the latest scary study anyway

From Zoe: It's Our Nature

The animals who are most likely to make you sick are the animals you eat. Note the regular recalls of beef, hamburger and eggs (500 million eggs just a few months ago), and consider your likelihood of getting sick this way compared to getting sick from being around Fido and Fluffy.

A 9-year-old boy catches the plague from sleeping with his cat.

A 69-year-old man comes down with meningitis after having his dog in bed with him and licking his hip-replacement wound.

And a 48-year-old man and his wife both contract the bacterial infection MRSA from their dog, who frequently slept in their bed.

So, should your pets spend the night in bed with you? Here’s a little more background:

The cat sleeping with the 9-year-old boy was badly infested with fleas, and was not being treated by the boy’s family.

In the case of the 69-year-old man, simple post-operative care, hygiene and common sense would not have these two in bed together at this time.

And in the MRSA example, the dog’s bacterial infection should already have been diagnosed and treated in a routine checkup, even if symptoms were not already apparent.

Despite all this, the January 2011 recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control is that people and pets shouldn’t be sleeping together.

The study will be published in the February issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases, a publication of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The study found that 53 percent of dog owners allow their canines to sleep in bed with them. The number of cats who nap in bed is even higher.

“I think pets can be very nice in the home environment, but certainly, they don’t belong on the bed,” one of the authors of the study, Bruno Chomel, a professor at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, Davis, told LiveScience.

The study warns that people with weakened immune system are most at risk for getting an infection from their pet.

The information in the studies is all true, but it could be criticized for a certain lack of balance. For example:

The chance, for most people, of catching MRSA from their pets is astronomically low. However, the chance of picking up MRSA when you spend any time in the average hospital is increasingly, and dangerously, high. You’re a lot safer sleeping with your pet than going to the hospital.

The animals who are most likely to make you sick are the animals you eat. Note the regular recalls of beef, hamburger and eggs (500 million eggs just a few months ago), and consider your likelihood of getting sick this way compared to getting sick from being around Fido and Fluffy.

And finally, keep in mind the ever-growing number of studies that demonstrate the health benefits pets provide their people. These far outweigh any remote risk of catching something. Pets help to lower blood pressure, reduce stress, lift your spirits, increase your physical activity, as well as offering unconditional love, friendship and support.

Common sense tells us to observe basic rules of hygiene around our pets – not to mention the humans we live with. And any basic sense of caring and responsibility tells us to take our pets to the veterinarian for an annual checkup.

As long as we do that, the likelihood of catching some scary disease from Fido or Fluffy is considerably lower than getting hit by a bus.