Dogs may protect babies from some infections: study

July 9, 2012

Babies who spend time around pet dogs have fewer ear infections and respiratory ailments than those whose homes are animal-free, said a study released on Monday.

The study, published in the US journal Pediatrics, did not say why but suggested that being around a dog that spends at least part of its day outdoors may boost a child's in the first year of life.

Cats, too, seemed to convey some protection to babies, though the effect observed was weaker than with dogs.

The research was based on 397 children in Finland whose parents made each week recording the state of their child's health during the infant's first year, from nine weeks to 52 weeks of age.

Overall, babies in homes with cats or dogs were about 30 percent less likely to have respiratory infectious symptoms -- which included cough, wheezing, rhinitis (stuffy or ) and fever -- and about half as likely to get ear infections.

"If children had dog or cat contacts at home, they were significantly healthier during the study period," said the study led by experts at Kuopio University Hospital in Finland.

The most protective association was seen in children who had a dog inside at home for up to six hours a day, compared to children who did not have any dogs or who had dogs that were always outside.

"We offer preliminary evidence that dog ownership may be protective against during the first year of life," said the study.

"We speculate that animal contacts could help to mature the immunologic system, leading to more composed immunologic response and shorter duration of infections."

The improvement was significant, even after researchers ruled out other factors that could boost infection risk, such as not having been breastfed, attending daycare, being raised by or parents with asthma, or having older siblings in the household.

In addition to having less and respiratory infections, babies near dogs tended to need fewer courses of antibiotics compared to those who were reared in pet-free households, it said.

Previous research has shown conflicting results, with some studies finding no benefit for young children being around furry pets and others finding that animal contact appears to offer some protection against colds and stomach ailments.

The study authors said their research differs from previous analyses because it focuses solely on the first postnatal year and does not include older children.

Explore further: Early exposure to pets does not increase children's risk of allergies

Related Stories

Early exposure to pets does not increase children's risk of allergies

June 13, 2011
A new study published in the journal Clinical & Experimental Allergy reveals that keeping a dog or cat in the home does not increase children's risk of becoming allergic to the pets.

Dog-associated house dust protects against respiratory infection linked to asthma

June 19, 2012
House dust from homes with dogs appears to protect against infection with a common respiratory virus that is associated with the development of asthma in children. Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, ...

Simple steps can shield children from dog bites

July 6, 2012
(HealthDay) -- More than half of the 4.7 million people bitten by dogs in the United States annually are children under the age of 14.

Recommended for you

Small drop in measles vaccinations would have outsized effect, study estimates

July 24, 2017
Small reductions in childhood measles vaccinations in the United States would produce disproportionately large increases in the number of measles cases and in related public health costs, according to a new study by researchers ...

At the cellular level, a child's loss of a father is associated with increased stress

July 18, 2017
The absence of a father—due to incarceration, death, separation or divorce—has adverse physical and behavioral consequences for a growing child. But little is known about the biological processes that underlie this link ...

New comparison chart sheds light on babies' tears

July 10, 2017
A chart that enables parents and clinicians to calculate if a baby is crying more than it should in the first three months of its life has been created by a Kingston University London researcher, following a study of colic ...

Blood of SIDS infants contains high levels of serotonin

July 3, 2017
Blood samples from infants who died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) had high levels of serotonin, a chemical that carries signals along and between nerves, according to a study funded in part by the National Institutes ...

Is your child's 'penicillin allergy' real?

July 3, 2017
(HealthDay)—Many children suspected of being allergic to the inexpensive, first-line antibiotic penicillin actually aren't, new research indicates.

Probiotic supplements failed to prevent babies' infections

July 3, 2017
(HealthDay)—Probiotic supplements may not protect babies from catching colds or stomach bugs in day care, a new clinical trial suggests.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.