Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The sky is falling and other good tales of doom

The past week has been a gold mine for pet lovers who blog. (I will put my thoughts from a veterinarian's perspective on all this hoopla at the end of this blog.)  Last week the media picked up the story of a CDC (Center for Disease Control) study that talks about the risks of sharing your bed with your pets.  All sorts of scary diseases from the plague to methicillin resistant staph aureus that can be passed from pet to person were mentioned in the study.  And not only did the news media pick up this story, they ran with it.  If I search "sleeping with pets" on Google news search, I get 202 results.  And that is not a very detailed or complete search by any means.  The news articles range from the informative to the overly sensationalized to the humorous.  Here are just a few that I have stumbled across.

FoxNews reports "Study Claims Sleeping with Pets May Be Dangerous".  I was a little disappointed by this headline.  I go to FoxNews whenever I want to look for really cool headlines like these I found on January 26 "Woman Allegedly Mowed Down After Facebook Feud"  or "Man Seeks Police Protection from Sex Crazed Wife".  Really, how can you not click on those stories to read them.  Then there is the story headline "Fire on Hudson River Ferry Over; no injuries reported".   What a great story to link to off of their front page on their web site.  There was a fire.  It was brought under control.  No one was hurt.  I love FoxNews.  They make me smile.  So you can see that I was totally disappointed when I read the story that pets sleeping in bed with you "may" be dangerous.  Such ambiguity is just not like them.

This was especially disappointing after AOL news linked to a news article which headline reads "Letting Sleeping Dogs Lie In Your Bed Can Kill You".   No ambiguity here.  It's not that pets in bed "may" be dangerous or "may" make you sick.  No, those furry carnivores in our homes can KILL you.  See, I knew it was much worse than I first thought.

But beyond the regular news stories, there are the bloggers.  I actually enjoy these the most because they take life much less serious.  I like that.  Living in a cold northern climate, I can really related to this blogger from USA today who writes "Final Word: Ban on pets in bed is giving folks cold feet".  In my younger and single days having a dog or two or three in bed with me was quite an advantage in lowering my heating bills.  Nowadays I have a husband and a pre-menopausal body that provide me with more than enough heat during my sleeping hours, but pets can provide a very practical source of heat at night.

Then there is the blogger from The web site that informs us "Alarmist nonsense implicates dogs at the foot of the bed".  He goes on to talk about how the hand washing industry is probably behind all of this nonsense.  He certainly is on to the fact that we are become a nation of germaphobes.  I still remember working for a mixed animal veterinary practice years ago.  At lunchtime we would gather around the employee lounge to eat and hang out.  One of the small animal veterinarians who worked in the clinic all day was totally obsessed with personal cleanliness.  I still remember that he would wash and sanitize the top of his can of soda before opening it and taking a drink.  The rest of us would come into the clinic fresh from large animal farm calls with bits of manure on our clothing, wash our hands, dry them on our clothes and eat lunch.  The small animal veterinarian was always sick with colds and flu (nothing serious) and the rest of always stayed healthy.  I have no scientific basis for this, but I have always had the contention that some low level exposure to germs is actually better for your immune system.  It just makes sense.  Oh and before you panic about my cleanliness in treating my patients, I have had "cleanliness is next to Godliness" drilled into my head from the beginning of time.  Or you can just look at my shrivelled up dried out hand like body parts that are a result of my 457 hand washings I do every day at the clinic.  In the hospital, sanitary conditions are not optional.  In my personal life, I prefer a little dirt under my nails.  Life is more fun that way.

One of my husband's favorite sayings is "If it weren't for house fires, I wouldn't leave the house at all".  He always says that in response to the latest news article about the dangers in our life.  Remember the dihydrogen monoxide scare from a few years back?  Just check out the facts at FAQ if you want to read about all the dangers of this deadly chemical that we are exposed to every day of our lives.  Heck just this winter I saw a news article that sled riding is dangerous and can cause injuries.  Really?  Before I was born, my mom actually tore some ligaments in her knee in a sled riding accident.  You would have thought that mom would have banned us kids from such a dangerous activity, but no, she actually took us sled riding and we had fun.  Oh the horror of it all.  (And don't you just love the label on this bottle of water I got at a convention years ago? (picture below)  I LOVE people/companies with a sense of humor!  Maybe they should have put the dihydrogen monoxide warnings on this label though.)

So where does all this doom and gloom news about pets sleeping in our beds leave a veterinarian who lives, loves and breathes all the beauty of the human-animal bond?  Well, it leaves me with being informed about what is out there, minimizing the risks and then going ahead and loving the life I lead with all the animals that surround me at work and at home.  Would you sleep with your spouse if he/she didn't take a shower for months on end, never brushed their teeth and had lice crawling all over them?  If you want to sleep with your pet, make sure you bathe them regularly, keep up with their dental hygiene and for gosh sakes keep them free from fleas, mites, intestinal worms and many other various parasites that can plague our pets.  If you don't know what it takes to make sure your pet is healthy, see your veterinarian.  Don't forget to exercise extra caution if you or whoever is sleeping with the family pet does not have a healthy fully functional immune system.  End of the be careful sermon.  Now go love your pet and live your life.