Homes with pets healthier for children

Finnish researchers have suggested that children living in homes in rural or suburban areas with pet dogs develop fewer colds, ear infections and require less antibiotics in their first year of life than babies raised in pet-free homes.

Homes with pets healthier for children

by Louise-Anne Geddes, Mindful Mum, 9th July 2012

Their study, which will be published in Pediatrics journal in August also found that homes with cats are healthier for babies too, but not to the same extent as dogs.  The research was led by Eija Bergroth, MD, of Finland’s Kuopio University Hospital and colleagues who followed the progress of 397 Finnish children from the third trimester of pregnancy until 12 months of age. Parents filled out weekly diaries with detailed information on their child’s health and on their child’s contact with dogs and cats.


Compared with children living in pet free homes, the researchers found that children living with dogs had:

  • Fewer respiratory tract symptoms or infections
  • Ear infections less often
  • Fewer courses of antibiotics

It is as yet unclear as to why this is the case and researchers will undertake further studies to determine this.  Bergroth said:

‘It might have something to do with the dog itself as an animal.  The living environment can also affect this. These children lived in rural or suburban areas, so inner-city kids ,and dogs,might get different results’.


However, the researchers warned that the benefits of living with animals should not used as a blanket positive effect, particularly for children with allergies.  Researcher DeMuth said:

‘There is also an interaction between these microbes and an individual child’s genetics.  Certain people who have a dog in the house are protected against infections and allergies, but some are not. This is not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. The absolute wrong thing is to put a dog in the house for kids with asthma.  Yes, having a dog in the house early can protect against wheezing or respiratory infections. But this exposure has to happen very early in life’.

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Source:  Web MD, Many Babies Healthier in Homes With Dogs, 9th July 2012
Photo: @ Flickr

+Louise-Anne Geddes

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