Sharing Your Bed With a Small Dog

posted: 05/15/12
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Sharing Your Bed with a Small Dog
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England's Queen Victoria shared her deathbed with a Pomeranian. Russia's Czar, Peter the Great, slept with his Italian greyhound. Throughout history, people have been curling up with their canines at night. And why not? It's so obviously tempting, what with teacup poodles making such fine bed heaters and dachshunds acting as perfect head warmers, stretching across your hairline from ear to ear.

But if you spill the beans about your sleeping arrangements -- even in the pet-friendliest of circles -- you'll hear lots of advice to the contrary. Most of it will stem from widespread notions about dog behavior, including the idea that your sweet companion will transform into a bed-stealing Cujo the moment you begin letting her snooze with you.

The ideas are that sleeping on the same level as your dog will give her equal authority and free rein to rule the roost, and that if you politely adjust your sleeping position to accommodate your dog, you're acting as her subordinate.

If you've asserted yourself as the alpha of your family pack, you probably don't need to worry. But the moment you see an air-snap or hear a guttural growl, get that dog out from under the covers. Whether she's feeling aggressive or anxious, those behaviors could mean you're at risk of a bite, and it may be time to consult with a professional dog trainer. Such potentially dangerous behavior should be addressed before you invite her to join the slumber party.

Take an honest inventory of your own sleep habits, too. If you turn into a grumpy mess without eight hours of uninterrupted sleep, don't try adding a dog to the mix. Although your pal will sleep about 14 out of every 24 hours, it won't be in long stretches. She'll get up during the night and, unable to leap her little body off your human-height bed, will whine for your help. Probably more than once.

Another word of caution: If you like fur-free bedding or the ability to randomly roll over in your sleep without worrying about whether you'll squish your pet, think twice about co-sleeping. The same goes if you have a partner who's uncertain about sharing the covers with your dog. However, if your relationship with your pet includes healthy boundaries and mutual respect, feel free to cuddle the night away.

But could sharing your bed with a dog pose health risks?

Can You Get Sick from Sleeping with Your Small Dog?

The list of diseases that could be transmitted by your otherwise lovely little dog can be quite shocking. According to a study published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, the risks to your health include everything from internal parasites to the bubonic plague. Yes, that bubonic plague, as well as more common (but no less scary) maladies such as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or meningitis.

If your dog plays with, steps in or eats feces (her own or other animals'), she could transmit dog-to-human bacteria or parasites, like salmonella or heartworms. Naturally, you wouldn't want your little buddy to have fleas or ticks, either, but especially not if you're sharing your sheets. Remember what we said about the bubonic plague? Fleas can infect humans with it, and ticks carry Lyme disease. So make sure your dog is protected against such creepy critters and vaccinated against rabies and other diseases. In short, take advantage of the routine preventive care offered by your veterinarian and you should be fine.

By employing regular doses of preventive care and common sense, you can enjoy a midnight cuddle with your small dog even if you have allergies. If asthma or related issues crop up when you get too cozy with your dog, try employing an air filter to absorb allergens and washing your sheets more often. Or you could request allergy shots from your doctor to help build your tolerance to all that dander.

If, however, you have a more serious health condition that compromises your immune system, such as being HIV positive or undergoing chemotherapeutic treatments, it's not a good idea to sleep with your dog. Weakened defenses might have trouble handling the strain, and your pet wouldn't want you to risk serious illness on her behalf.

If sleeping with your dog simply isn't right for you, placing a comfy dog bed near your own may help you both sleep better and awake more refreshed. Under the right conditions, spending time with an animal offers many benefits. The dog/human bond acts as a buffer from stress, helps us develop socially and even encourages more active lifestyles. Plus, there's just no substitute for a wagging tail -- especially when it's the first sight to greet you in the morning.

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