Study Ties Pet Dogs Or Cats To Reduced Risk Of Child Allergies, Obesity

By Amanda Moore, Parent Herald April 10, 04:00 am
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Experts from University of Alberta found out pets like dogs or cats help babies develop more good bacteria than average.
(Photo : Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

A recent study revealed that there's another good reason for keeping a pet dog or cat at home aside from experiencing companionship and receiving unconditional love. Experts found links to pet ownership that benefits families with small children. Their exposure to dogs or cats early in life apparently reduces their risk of developing child allergies or obesity.

Researchers from the University of Alberta in Canada learned babies born to families with pets grow up exposed to ruminococcus and oscillospira microbes. Experts said an abundance of these "good" microbes protects humans and strengthens the gut immunity.

The experts collected and examined the fecal matter of 700 babies in Canada between 2009 and 2012. They saw twice the amount of good microbes among babies whose families had pets and 70 percent of the study's subjects had dogs at home. Microbiome journal published the experts' findings.

Experts learned the abundance of gut bacteria was present even as the baby was still in the mother's womb and for up to three months after the birth. Experts also determined stronger immunities among babies delivered via C-section, or didn't receive ample breast milk, or had antibiotics due to birth complications. Experts believed having pets enabled these babies to develop better resistance against certain allergies or obesity factors.

Lead study author and pediatric epidemiologist Anita Kozyrskyj said timing mattered to the abundance of gut bacteria development. "There's definitely a critical window of time when gut immunity and microbes co-develop, and when disruptions to the process result in changes to gut immunity," she said, as per the press release.

Kozyrskyj envisioned their study might help other researchers, especially from pharmaceutical companies, to create a "dog in a pill" to help curb allergies or weight gain. "It's not far-fetched that the pharmaceutical industry will try to create a supplement of these microbiomes, much like was done with probiotics," the expert concluded.

Do you have pets in your house? Do you let pets come close to your young children? Have you noticed anything about their health? Share your experience with house pets and children in the comments!

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