Letting your dog sleep in the bed: Good or bad idea?
Of course you love your dog. Maybe yours socks feature their photo or they have their own Instagram account. You probably love nearly everything about the furry little creature.
Who can blame you? Your dog really is the perfect companion: adorable, loyal, loving and a great listener to boot.
While there may be nothing better than cuddling with your pet, should you sleep with your dog in the bed?
There’s not a one-size-fits-all answer to this question and there are lots of strong opinions on both sides of the argument.
It comes down to weighing the benefits (snuggling with your pet keeps you warm and content) versus the risks (your dog makes your partner sneeze and wheeze and tends to disrupt your sleep quality with all the noises and moving).
We asked a panel of experts including an allergist, a sleep expert, a relationship expert, and an animal trainer to weigh in on whether and when you should sleep with your dog in bed.
An allergist’s perspective
If you or your partner is allergic to your dog (and many people are), your dog should probably not sleep in your bed or even your bedroom, says Kanao Otsu, MD, an allergist and immunologist.
As many as three in 10 people with allergies react to cats and dogs, with cat allergies about twice as common as dog allergies.
“Cats and dogs are the most common indoor allergens besides dust mites and cockroaches, and there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog or cat,” she says.
It doesn’t matter if your dog doesn’t shed, she says. “The allergens are in saliva and skin, and all dogs have skin and saliva.”
When your pet sleeps in bed with you, there is about an eight-hour window of continuous exposure to these allergens. “That is a high allergen load,” Dr Otsu says.
For some pet lovers, this may mean waking with sniffles, for others it may mean itchy, watery eyes, and for some, sleeping with your dog may cause wheeze and asthma symptoms.
The decision on where your dog should sleep depends on the severity of allergies, she says.
In addition, sleeping with your pet could expose you to any fleas they may be carrying. It’s always a good idea to practice flea control, but that’s even more important if your dog sleeps with you. Although fleas can’t live on humans, they can certainly bite you if the opportunity arises.
Flea bites may come in sets of three – sometimes called breakfast, lunch, and dinner –a bite pattern that can be mistaken for bed bugs.
Make sure to check your pet for fleas and ticks, see a veterinarian for the proper treatments and prevention, vacuum your home and wash bedding frequently, and wash your pet with soap and water, while also using a flea comb.
How to minimise allergen exposure
As for allergens, there are ways to minimise exposure if you absolutely must sleep with your beloved pet, she says.
A high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter can help remove animal dander from the air. “You can get rid of carpet, which is more likely to trap animal dander and hair, and opt for hardwood floors instead,” she suggests. Washing your pet weekly can also cut down on allergens.
The goal is to lower your allergen load, so you don’t have to do all of this all of the time. It’s also possible to become desensitised to your pet over time, she says.
It’s a good call to see an allergist to find out exactly what you are allergic to as it may not be your dog, after all, she says.