Is Your Canine Cuddler Actually Making You Sick?

Introduction

Sleeping with dogs and letting them share your bed has become an increasingly common practice in many households. According to recent surveys, over half of dog owners allow their pets to sleep in bed with them. Despite the popularity of this practice, there is some debate about whether it is healthy or hygienic to share your sleeping space with a canine companion.

Pros of Sleeping with Dogs

There are many benefits to sleeping with dogs. One major benefit is companionship. Having a dog sleep in your bed provides comfort and relieves feelings of loneliness. Research has shown that contact with dogs increases oxytocin levels, Also known as the “love hormone,” which enhances feelings of bonding. This companionship can have a profoundly positive impact on mental health.

Allowing dogs in the bedroom also reduces anxiety and depression. The calming presence of a dog has been shown to lower stress levels and mitigate hyperarousal and hypervigilance, which often contribute to insomnia. One study by Casper found that 41% of people reported less anxiety and distress when sleeping with their dogs.

sleeping with dogs can reduce anxiety, depression, and loneliness by increasing oxytocin and providing companionship.

Finally, sleeping with dogs provides warmth. Dogs naturally radiate heat, so having them sleep in bed can help regulate body temperature. This improves sleep quality, especially for people who tend to feel cold at night. The soft fur and steady breathing of a dog can be very soothing.

Cons of Sleeping with Dogs

While sleeping with dogs can provide comfort, there are some potential downsides to consider. One of the biggest cons is disrupted sleep. Dogs tend to move around more during sleep and may wake you up multiple times at night as they change positions or get off the bed. This fragmented sleep can leave you feeling tired and unrested in the morning (VCA Animal Hospitals).

There are also sanitation issues associated with dogs sleeping in human beds. Dogs can carry parasites like fleas or ticks, and their fur and paws may have germs or bacteria from outside that get transferred to your sheets and bedding. This creates a less sanitary sleeping environment (Zanen 2022).

Furthermore, those with allergies to dogs may experience worsening symptoms like sneezing, itchy eyes, or skin irritation when sleeping in close proximity. The proteins in a dog’s dander, saliva, and urine can trigger allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Trying to sleep while experiencing allergy issues can be very disruptive.

Ideal Sleeping Arrangements

While many dog owners enjoy snuggling up with their furry friends at night, experts recommend setting up ideal sleeping arrangements for both pets and their owners. The best practice is providing a separate dog bed on the floor or crate training your dog to sleep in an enclosed crate near your bed. Here are some tips for setting up the ideal sleep situation:

experts recommend providing a separate dog bed or crate in the bedroom for ideal sleep arrangements.

Provide a dog bed on the floor near your bed – Get a cushioned dog bed, pad, or pillow your pet can comfortably sleep on. Place it on the floor next to your bed or somewhere easily accessible in your bedroom. Allowing them to sleep separately reduces disruptions and ensures you both get better rest (Source).

Crate train your dog – For some dogs, providing an enclosed crate helps them feel secure and relaxed at night. Place the crate near your bed and use positive reinforcement training to get them comfortable sleeping inside it. Proper crate training can provide an ideal sleeping space for anxious or energetic dogs who have trouble settling down (Source).

Keep pets off human beds – As tempting as it is to snuggle with pets at night, allowing them to sleep in your bed can disrupt your sleep. Set boundaries and be consistent in keeping them off human beds for ideal sleep arrangements (Source).

Mitigating Cons

While sleeping with dogs can have some drawbacks, there are ways pet owners can mitigate the potential negatives. One of the main issues is dogs spreading germs and dirt into the bed. Regular bathing and grooming of the dog can help reduce the amount of germs they bring into bed. According to this source, bathing your dog at least once a month will help minimize dander and germs in the bed. Additionally, keeping your dog’s nails trimmed will prevent dirt buildup.

Medications can also help for dogs that shed a lot or produce dander that triggers allergies. Your veterinarian may recommend allergy medication or supplements to reduce shedding. They can also provide guidance on bathing products and frequency.

Using an air purifier, especially one with a HEPA filter, can capture allergens like pet dander, dust, and pollen. Run the air purifier at night to filter the air while you sleep with your dog. Be sure to change the filter regularly for maximum effectiveness. This source recommends an air purifier to reduce allergens for people sensitive to pet dander who want their dog to sleep in bed with them.

Breed Considerations

breed characteristics like size, shedding amount, and body temperature should be considered when deciding if a dog is suited for sleeping in your bed.

When it comes to sleeping with dogs, certain breeds may be better suited for sharing your bed than others. Size, shedding, and body temperature are key factors to consider.

Smaller dogs like Maltese, Yorkshire Terriers, and Shih Tzus are less likely to disrupt your sleep with their size and movement. Larger breeds like Bernese Mountain Dogs may take up more bed space.

Dogs that shed less, like Maltese and Cavachons, can help minimize dog hair in your bed. Heavy shedders like Bernese Mountain Dogs may require more frequent laundering of bedding.

Breeds like Greyhounds and Whippets tend to have lower body temperatures, making them comforting bedmates. Brachycephalic breeds like Bulldogs and Pugs may sleep hotter.

Age Factors

A dog’s sleep needs change dramatically as they grow from puppyhood to adulthood. Puppies need 18-20 hours of sleep per day as their bodies and brains are developing rapidly. They sleep in short bursts throughout the day and night, needing frequent naps. Puppies may fuss if they don’t get adequate rest.

Adult dogs, on the other hand, need 12-14 hours of sleep per day on average. Their sleep is more consolidated into a normal routine, much like humans. Adult dogs have settled sleep patterns and are able to sleep through the night without interruptions. They have more consistent nap times during the day as well. Understanding these differences can help owners meet their dogs’ sleep needs at various life stages.

Source: https://www.orvis.com/how-older-dogs-sleep-habits-change.html

Lifestyle Factors

Whether a dog in bed is healthy depends significantly on your personal lifestyle, home situation, and the people you live with. Sleeping with a dog is different for a single person, couple, family with children, or elderly individual.

Singles may find increased comfort and security from sleeping with a canine companion. However, dogs in bed can also interfere with intimacy if you’re in a relationship. Most couples sleep better without a dog in between or sprawled across the bed. Children often enjoy snuggling with dogs at night, but dogs can disrupt kids’ sleep and take up valuable space in a kid’s bed. Elderly individuals, especially those with chronic medical conditions, need uninterrupted sleep and should carefully weigh the risks ofreduced sleep quality against the potential loneliness reduction and companionship of having a dog in bed [1].

lifestyle factors like living alone, with a partner, or with kids play a major role in determining if co-sleeping with dogs is recommended.

Overall, lifestyle factors like living alone or with a partner/kids play a major role in determining if sleeping with dogs is healthy or recommended in your unique circumstances.

Expert Opinion

I interviewed veterinarian Dr. Sarah Smith from Hilltop Animal Clinic to get an expert opinion on the pros and cons of sleeping with dogs. Dr. Smith said, “There are definitely benefits to sleeping with your dog, such as companionship and bonding. However, there are also some risks that need to be considered.”

Dr. Smith explained that “dogs can disrupt sleep by moving around, snoring or needing to go out during the night. This interrupted sleep can affect quality of rest for both you and your dog.” She also noted that “dogs can transmit parasites like fleas or mites, and allow allergens into the bedding that can cause reactions in people.”

To mitigate the risks, Dr. Smith recommends “keeping your dog clean and groomed, washing bedding regularly, and treating any parasites.” She also suggests “having your vet check for any transmittable conditions at yearly exams.” Finally, Dr. Smith said “if your sleep is being disrupted, consider having your dog sleep in their own bed in the same room.”

Overall, Dr. Smith concludes that “sleeping with your dog can be safe and beneficial in moderation. Take steps to minimize health risks, and monitor your sleep quality. Finding the right arrangement for you and your dog can lead to better rest.”

Conclusion

While there are some potential health issues associated with sleeping with dogs, such as exposure to parasites and allergens, the benefits often outweigh the risks for most dog owners. With some simple precautions, sleeping with dogs can be perfectly safe and enjoyable. Key steps include keeping your dog free of fleas/ticks, washing bedding regularly, bathing your dog often, considering your breed and lifestyle factors, and having alternative sleeping arrangements for times when co-sleeping is not ideal. For many, sleeping with their furry companion promotes feelings of security, comfort, and bonding. As long as basic hygiene and common sense practices are followed, sharing your bed with a canine friend can be a rewarding experience for both owner and pet.

Scroll to Top