Dogs In Bed: Setting The Record Straight
Veterinarian Reviewed by Dr. Janice Huntingford, DVM on March 28, 2018
Posted in Dogs
Dogs and humans sleeping in bed together is one of the most hotly-debated topics of the pet parent community. Proof is just a Google search away, since entering this topic will yield a plethora of seemingly contradictory headlines. One article will tell you that you should never let your dog sleep in bed with you, while the next one down will literally say the complete opposite. This is largely because there is no definitive answer as to whether letting your dog sleep in bed with you is purely “good” or “bad.”
Different people have had different experiences with pets in bed. A recent scientific study did test the effects of letting a dog sleep in bed with a human but the results were not exactly conclusive. In fact, some of those aforementioned headlines were likely different interpretations of the same study.
Do Dogs Make It Harder To Sleep?
A team from the Mayo Clinic enlisted the help of 40 dog owners for the five-month study. Throughout this time frame, participants answered questions about how they slept and if their dogs slept in bed with them. For one week, the humans and their dogs wore tracking devices to give the researchers a clearer picture in regards to quality of sleep. The team found that people who slept with their dogs in bed with them achieved a sleep efficiency of around 80%. This is considered a satisfactory score, since 85%-89% is reportedly normal sleep efficiency. But those who slept with their dogs did wake up at night more frequently than those who slept without their dogs.
Can you see why this study can be interpreted in two different ways? Arguably the only conclusive result of this study was that sleeping with your dog is more difficult than sleeping next to another person. Participants who slept in bed with another person were less likely to wake up at night than participants who slept with their dogs.
Not Exactly The Picture Of Hygiene
Another explanation for the contradictory Google results is the risk of illness. Most dogs have a habit of rolling around in dirt or stepping in their own poop. They’ve also been known to carry all sorts of parasites, bugs or bacteria. Roundworms, hookworms, ticks and fleas live in your dog’s fur or hair and can apparently find their way onto your bed sheets. Ticks are especially dangerous since they can cause Lyme Disease, which announces itself in the form of flu-like symptoms.
A 2013 study, however, suggests that the bacteria your dog carries might actually improve your health. Researchers from the University of Colorado discovered that these specific types of bacteria can potentially strengthen your immune system, decrease your risk of disease, and possibly even make it easier to lose weight. This is why kids who grow up around dogs have previously proven to be less prone to autoimmune disease, allergies, and obesity.
How To Tell If Your Pet Is Safe To Sleep With
So, it appears that sleeping with your dog can be both good and bad. If your pet doesn’t disturb your sleep and isn’t carrying any harmful micro-organisms, you probably have nothing to worry about. But how can you know your pet is safe? Simple: Have him or her examined by your vet! Before you start sleeping with your pet, go to the vet to make sure you won’t wake up with ticks or fleas. But the second you begin to feel like your pet is negatively impacting your sleep, it’s time to reclaim the space for yourself. Your pet doesn’t have to get up for work every day.
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Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan