DIRTY DOGS, HEALTHY BABIES
Pet lovers probably don’t need any additional encouragement to keep their furry friends around. But those who are less inclined to take on the responsibility and deal with the mess that pets can bring into your home may be interested in a new study out of Finland that is suggesting that having pets can help to make your children healthier!
Researchers followed a small cohort of 397 children and they found that in the first year of life, babies who grew up in an environment with a dog or cat were sick less often with colds.
It’s not clear why, but dog ownership was found to have more of a protective effect than cat ownership - in fact, even after adjusting for confounding factors, the children with dogs in the home had fewer ear infections and had less need to take antibiotics.
Interestingly, when researchers took a closer look at the amount of time the dogs spent in the home, they found that the healthiest children were those who lived in homes where the dog was only inside the home temporarily during the day.
This may be because these part-time outside dogs brought more dirt into the home, which would add weight to the theory that kids need to be exposed to dirt and germs in order to help to mature their immune systems. Further study would be necessary to confirm this, but it certainly not a new idea – according to this “Hygiene Theory”, kids who grow up in too clean an environment don’t give their immune systems a proper workout and so those kids may be likely to get sicker or develop allergies.
For a look at the full Finnish study on pets and babies, see: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2012/07/03/peds.2011-2825.full.pdf
[gratuitous video of cute baby and dog courtesy of msjadensdad on YouTube]