Dog Lowers Asthma Risk, Health Study Shows

A new health study shows that owning a family pet is more beneficial than just having a fury playmate. According to a new health study, dogs can lower the risks of children developing asthma before the age of six.

According to Web MD, researchers studied more than one million Swedish children from 2001 through 2010 and found that those who grew up with dogs in the home were 15 percent less likely to develop asthma than those who were not exposed to dogs at a young age, and those who grew up around farm animals were 52 percent less likely to develop asthma.

Lead study author Tove Fall of Uppsala University in Sweden said the study doesn’t prove that puppies prevent asthma, but it does suggest that parents shouldn’t keep their infants and children away from dogs for fear of developing the disease.

“To let children have a pet in their home is likely to enrich the family life in many ways, and perhaps also enriches the child’s microbiome and immune system,” Fall said, according to NBC News.“Earlier studies have shown that growing up on a farm reduces a child’s risk of asthma to about half. We wanted to see if this relationship also was true for children growing up with dogs in their homes.”

“Our results confirmed the farming effect and we also saw that children who grew up with dogs had about 15 percent less asthma than children without dogs. Because we had access to such a large and detailed data set, we could account for confounding factors such as asthma in parents, area of residence and socioeconomic status.”

The study, published online November 2 in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, included 276,000 school-age children, 22,000 who lived with a parent who owned a dog within the child’s first year of life. The study also included approximately 950 school-age children with a parent who worked with farm animals. Out of the 276,000 kids, only about 11,600 of them experienced an asthmatic episode during their seventh year of life.

The researchers also noticed a lower asthma risk among preschool-age kids, who had a 10 percent lower risk of asthma if they’d been exposed to dogs, and a 21 percent lower risk if they had been exposed to farm animals. Out of 379,000 preschoolers, only 19,000 had experienced asthma at the start of the study, and only 28,000 additional cases were recorded during a follow up. Exposure to dogs and farm animals did not seem to have an affect on children ages three and under.

“In this study, early exposure to dogs and farm animals reduced asthma risk, and this may or may not include other types of pets that children keep,” said Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “The takeaway is that early exposure may reduce the incidence of a later pathological process.”

Study senior author Catarina Almqvist Malmros, a professor of clinical epidemiology at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, explained the importance of parents understanding that the study does not apply to those children who have already developed asthma or allergies.

“We know that children with established allergy to cats or dogs should avoid them,” Malmros said.

“It might be due to a single factor or more likely, a combination of several factors related to dog ownership lifestyle or dog owner’s attitudes, such as kids’ exposure to household dirt and pet dust, time spent outdoors or being physically active,” Fall added.

[Photo via Shutterstock]