Risk For Respiratory Tract Infections Lowered In Children With Dogs [Study]

Children who live with pet dogs have a decreased risk for respiratory tract infections than children who grow up without a furry friend, says a new study published in the August 2012 issue of the journal Pediatrics.

Another recent asthma study presented at the 2012 General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology discovered that children living in homes with dogs have a lowered risk for asthma due to an exposure to a unique collection of microbes found within dog-associated house dust. According to that study, doggy dust provides protective factors against a common respiratory virus associated with the development of asthma in children, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

The present study discovered that children living with dogs had fewer cases of respiratory tract infections and symptoms including less frequent otitis or ear infections than their dog-less counterparts.

In the study conducted by researchers at the Departments of Pediatrics and Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Kuopio University Hospital in Kuopio, Finland, the researchers followed 397 children from pregnancy onward, studying the frequency of respiratory tract infections and symptoms together with information about dog and cat contacts during the first year of life.

Of 397 children participating in the study, 245 (61.7 percent) had contact with a dog and 136 (34.3 percent) had contact with a cat during the time period of the study.

The children who lived with a dog or a cat during the study were significantly healthier in terms of respiratory tract infections, having fewer weeks with cough, otitis, and rhinitis, than children who did not have a contact with a pet at home. Children with pets also needed fewer courses of antibiotics than children with no cat or dog contacts.

As the researchers conclude:

“According to our results, dog and cat contacts during early infancy may be associated with less morbidity in general (indicated as more healthy weeks) and concomitantly may have a protective effect on respiratory tract symptoms and infections.”

Additionally, living with a pet dog showed a more significant protective role against respiratory tract infections than living with a pet cat. However, although weaker than dog ownership, cat ownership seemed to also have an overall protective effect for the health of infants during the first year of life.

The researchers speculate that the reason that children who live with dogs have a decreased risk for respiratory tract infections is that “animal contacts could help to mature the immunologic system, leading to more composed immunologic response and shorter duration of infections.”

The results of this study support the theory that contact with animals is important during the first year of life, possibly leading to better resistance to respiratory tract infections during childhood. A dog really is man’s (or baby’s) best friend!

Would you adopt a pet dog to help lower your child’s risk for respiratory tract infections during infancy?