New research published in Pediatrics suggests that children living with a dog are significantly healthier than those living without it. The researchers followed up 397 Finnish children, asking their parents to fill in weekly questionnaires about their health until they were 1 year old. Scientists believe that this is so because dog contact helps the babies build up their immune system.
The results showed that children with a dog at home were healthy for about 73% of the time, while the percentage on children without a dog was of 65%. According to the study, the former ‘had fewer respiratory tract symptoms or infections’, as well as ‘less frequent otitis and tended to need fewer courses of antibiotics’ than those without dog contacts. Moreover, when dogs spent most of their time outside the home, the babies were healthier.
The study emphasizes the benefits of exposure to animals, at least when it comes to the so-called ‘man’s best friend’. The researchers also analyzed cat contacts, but it seems that the influence of cats on the baby’s health was weaker.
Eija Bergroth, Sami Remes, Juha Pekkanen, Timo Kauppila, Gisela Büchele, & Leea Keski-Nisula (2012). Respiratory Tract Illnesses During the First Year of Life: Effect of Dog and Cat Contacts Pediatrics : 10.1542/peds.2011-2825