Chomel notes Bubonic plague (caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis), Chagas disease (brought on by the protozoan Trypanosoma Cruzi) and cat scratch disease (caused by the bacteria Bartonella sp.) as the diseases that could follow zoonotic (transfer between different species) transmission from a pet to a person.
In my 10 years of veterinary practice, I have only had a single client report infection with one of the above diseases. A woman with a compromised immune system had been infected with cat scratch disease. I am unsure as to if she was sharing her bed space with your cat, but her doctor determined that she was infected by the skin trauma caused by her cat’s claws (declaw anyone?…kidding).
I have to consider the converse of the argument that we humans are at risk from our pets. How about the risks our pets face from contact with humans?
Even if we train our pets to sleep next to our bed on the floor, they still could be exposed to a variety of dangers lurking in the confines of our bedroom. Have you ever considered the potential health hazards your sleeping pills, ear plugs, or glass of water you keep on your bedside stand could pose to your pet? Well, I did and wrote Pet Care 101- Is Your Bedroom Safe for Your Pet. Read it, then organize your bedroom in a fashion to promote harmony among species.
In general, using good sanitary habits can help to keep you from catching a disease from your pet. Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and warm water after touching your pet. Practice regular grooming habits to keep pathogens off of your pet’s fur. Don’t let your pet lick your face (especially no french kissing!). Minimize external parasite infestation on your pet by using topical or oral species-appropriate veterinary products. Finally, vacuum your home (and empty the canister or throw away the bag far from your house) and wash all bedding on a weekly basis.
These are all common sense things of which we occasionally need to be reminded their importance.
Dr. Mahaney graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine and is also a Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist. He lives and practices in Los Angeles, California, and works closely with local rescue organizations. He also writes forLos Angeles Pet Care Examiner column.