Are Homes With Dogs Really Dirtier Than Those Without?

Are Homes With Dogs Really Dirtier Than Those Without?

Tuesday May 2nd, 2023

People love dogs. In fact, a staggering 38 percent of American households have at least one furry friend romping around their home. And, while they're certainly cute and cuddly, they carry a significant amount of bacteria on them. It begs the question: Are homes with dogs really dirtier than those without?

The Short Answer: Yes.

A North Carolina State University study found that the “presence of dogs had a significant effect on bacterial community composition” in a home. More specifically, “homes occupied by dogs harbored more diverse communities and higher relative abundances of dog-associated bacterial taxa,” or simply, bacteria.

The study measured bacteria in operational taxonomic units (OTUs). Some of the bacteria families in the OTUs included Streptococcaceae, Corynebacteriaceae, and Lactobacillaceae and dominant phyla such as Proteobacteria, Firmicutes, and Actinobacteria. On average, homes with dogs had up to 57% more OTUs in select areas of the house.

The most common viral and bacterial infections transmitted to humans by dogs include:

  • Bordetella bronchiseptica
  • Brucella
  • Campylobacter
  • Capnocytophaga
  • Coxiella burnetii
  • Leptospira
  • Methicillin-resistance staphylococcus aureus
  • Norovirus
  • Pasteurella
  • Salmonella
  • Staphylococcus intermedius
  • Yersinia enterocolitica

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) make a special note about Capnocytophaga, a type of bacteria that lives in the mouth of dogs. Albeit rare, Capnocytophaga germs can spread to people through bites and scratches. When this bacteria is spread, it causes a host of health issues, perhaps the most severe being sepsis. Most often, these issues only impact people with weakened immune systems, such as those who:

  • Have cancer or HIV
  • Drink alcohol excessively
  • Are taking steroids and other immune-suppressing medications
  • Have their spleens removed

To be absolutely clear, the vast majority of people will not become sick due to their dogs. Plus, dogs can have a significantly positive effect on the lives of their owners, from boosting cognitive development in children to promoting an active lifestyle.

White dog eating food in a nice clean room

Bacteria Isn’t Always Bad

For those with allergies, having a furry friend at home can put you in a constant state of sneezing, wheezing, and coughing. But, it turns out there could be some benefits to having dog-associated bacteria in the home. Research suggests that pregnant mothers who live in homes with dogs are less likely to give birth to children who develop allergies or atopic dermatitis.

The Benefits of Having a Dog

Not only is bacteria not always bad, but the benefits of having a dog are extensive. A 2019 American Heart Association analysis of roughly 4 million people in the United States, Canada, Scandinavia, New Zealand, Australia, and the United Kingdom found that dog ownership was associated with a 24% risk reduction for all-cause mortality as compared to nonownership and a 31% risk reduction for cardiovascular death. Additionally, research seems to suggest that dog owners versus non-dog owners have:

  • Better blood pressure
  • Better psychological well-being
  • Better sleep
  • Fewer doctors visits
  • Fewer heart attacks
  • Increased self-esteem
  • Less chance of developing diabetes
  • Less loneliness
  • Lower rates of depression and stress levels
  • Superior physical fitness

Keeping Dog Bacteria at Bay

In order to maximize the benefits and joy of having a dog, it's important to protect yourself from the bacteria that come with them. Doing so is especially important for those with asthma and allergies. To make sure you and your pup cohabitate seamlessly, make sure you're:

1. Cleaning Paws

You don't have to clean your dog's paws after every walk. But occasionally, your dog may accidentally step into another dog or animal's excrement. In the event this happens, you'll want to be vigilant about cleaning their paws. Doing so will reduce the chances of contracting salmonella. You'll also want to go to the source of the issue by making sure your yard is clear of animal feces.

2. Bathing Your Pet Regularly

Ask your groomer and/or veterinarian how often you should bathe your dog. Keeping your pup clean will significantly reduce the bacteria they're dragging around the house. Depending on your type of dog, it's likely between once a week to every four weeks.

3. Clean Your Pet’s Belongings

From leashes and collars to food dishes and dog beds, you've probably accumulated quite a bit of stuff for your dog. To avoid illness, regularly clean everything your pet uses. Make sure you read the care instructions on dog beds, stuffed toys, collars, and leashes. For chewable plastic toys, use pet-safe antibacterial dish soap and hot water to clean your pet's toys in the sink.

4. Wash Bedding and Pillow Covers

It can be cozy to sleep with your pup, but inarguably, it brings many more bacteria into your bed. Dust mites also love it when dogs sleep in bed as they feed on dead cells and hair. To ensure you're not sleeping in a puddle of parasites and bacteria, you'll want to create a weekly schedule to wash all your bedding. To be extra hygienic, consider getting a waterproof bed pad in case your dog has an accident at night.

If they're hanging on the couch most of the day, you should vacuum and wash your pillows if the cleaning instructions allow it. The same goes for throw blankets and other decorative cushions.

5. Invest in Good Air Filters

The quality of our air is critical to staying healthy year-round. Look for an HVAC filter with a minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV) rating between 8 and 13. Using a high MERV-rated filter will all but eliminate dander in the air. If your furnace can fit it, opt for a 4+ inch filter to capture more particles.

6. Don’t Stop Dusting

Before going straight to the vacuum:

  • Consider opting for a dust mop and microfiber cloth.
  • Hit your wood and tile floors at least twice a week.
  • Give your walls, ceilings, and fans a wipe-down at least once a week.

Beagle hanging out in living room

Keep Up with Your Pup

Pets bring us a lot of joy, but they also eat up a lot of our time. If you need help maintaining your home, contact Miller's Wellkept Services. We have a variety of house cleaning services to align with your precise needs. Reach out to Miller's today to learn more about our services and how we can help you and your four-legged friends.

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