The UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer Fred Landeg recently declared that pets should not be allowed to sleep in peoples’ beds or even be allowed in the bedroom. The reasoning behind this recommendation was the potential for transmission of bacteria such as Salmonella and Campylobacter. This was in response to a publication in the Veterinary Record describing animal-human interactions in households in the UK. It reported that 20% of participants let their dogs sleep in the bedroom and 14% let their dogs sleep in their bed.
While it is certainly true that any healthy animal (and person) can carry infectious diseases, and that prudence is reasonable, there is simply no evidence supporting this recommendation for the average household. Any contact with pets carries a very slight risk of disease transmission, just like any contact between people. There is currently no evidence, however, that sleeping with a pet in the bed increases the risk of disease. For your average pet and average household, this is probably exceedingly low risk and the recommendation is very difficult to justify. It is a reasonable recommendation when the pet is known to be carrying something that is transmissible to people (such as MRSA or Salmonella) or when a person has a compromised immune system. Banning pets from the bedroom completely doesn’t make any sense.
Personally, my dog is not allowed in my bed. However, that’s not because of disease concerns, it’s because she’s a large dog that snores and certainly can be a bed-hog. I have no problems with my cat on the bed. Life is never completely free of risk. If you enjoy having your pet in the bed, and you’re both healthy, I don’t see a reason to stop.