Feeling Sick? Snuggling With Pets Won't Hurt Them, Could Help You

Cuddling up with pets doesn't expose your furry friends to a risk of disease transmission. HeroImages/Getty Images

Alexandra Figueredo knows the remedies to reach for when she catches a cold or the flu — and it isn't necessarily chicken soup or an emergency run to the drugstore. Figueredo cuddles with her dog.

"I have a cute little fluffy dog," says Figueredo, a Miami-based marketer, "and whenever I'm sick, I love to cuddle up with him. Many times, he just knows I'm not feeling well. I believe dogs are very intuitive in that sense."


This 1887 chromolithograph illustration shows a historical kitten cuddle session; the Victorians knew what was up.
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While 34-year-old Figueredo is one of many who rely on their pets — in this case, a Havanese named Javi — for comfort, there are some who question whether this closeness adds a potential new hazard to the mix. Could you pass a cold or flu to your pet? Or vice versa?

No, says William Schaffner, M.D., a professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. "The pet is a comfort, not a hazard," Schaffner says, "you can't get a cold or the flu from your dog or cat."

And while there are diseases transmissable between human and animal, the common cold or the flu aren't among them; you can, however, easily spread those germs to other people. It's just one more reason to stay curled up with a pet instead of making contact with others. Plus, a pet can offer helpful comfort.

Schaffner doesn't (yet) prescribe in-home pet therapy for people with colds or flu, but there's a rich history of pets doubling as healers. In fact, involving animals in a person's healing — emotional or physical — has been shown to reduce pain, anxiety, fatigue and more.

And while the science of animals detecting human discomfort is still evolving, anecdotes can always warm the heart. "One time, I had a terrible migraine and my dog snuggled up on my head," says Figueredo. "He actually sat on my head. He had never done that before and it was surprising, yet very comforting."

Think you already know all there is to know about the flu? Think again, friend, and check out this video below: