Dogs can bring happiness and joy to a growing family. Now, a new study suggests another reason to have a furry friend in the house.
Research done at the University of Alberta found pets, particularly dogs, can help babies avoid allergies and obesity later in life. According to the study authors, an infant’s exposure to dirt and bacteria from a pet’s fur or paws contributes to early immunity.
“This interaction is required for a baby’s immune system to develop,” said Anita Kozyrskyj, a pediatric epidemiologist, as reported by Yahoo! News. “The microbes are training the immune system to react to harmful entities like pathogenic microbes and not react to beneficial microbes and food nutrients.”
— Paws Most Wanted (@pawsmostwanted) April 8, 2017
The study, published in the journal Microbiome, involved over 740 babies born between 2009 and 2012. According to the published findings, 70 percent of the families had a dog in the household, while others had cats or another type of furry companion. Over 50 percent of the babies were around at least one furry animal.
The research team for the study believes the immunity benefits begin even before a baby is born and continue until the child is at least 3-months-old. Additionally, c-sections, antibiotics, or bottle feeding did not affect the immunity enhancement provided by dogs.
Previous research has found children who live with dogs are also less susceptible to asthma. A study of more than 1 million children in Sweden indicated those living with furry pets were 15 percent less likely to get develop the disorder than those who did not. Interestingly, this same study suggested children that grow up in houses that are “too clean” may be more vulnerable to allergies.
The authors of the new study admit more research is needed before a definitive connection can be made between dogs and reduced allergies and obesity. However, the mental, emotional, and physical health benefits of having a furry companion are obvious, and this new research gives a growing family yet another reason to have a dog in the house.