A recent study performed at Kuopio University Hospital in Finland claims that babies who live in dog-owning families tend to be healthier than the ones who don’t. Based on the information provided by Reuters, the children who were surrounded by a dog or a cat during infancy had less health problems because animals strengthen their immune system.
Parents have been arguing for years about animals’ influence over their children’s health. The general belief was that the presence of dogs or cats in the house was noxious because these animals bring viruses in the house causing the small ones to fall sick. A recent research, however, comes to contradict everything that has been said so far.
According to Dr. Eija Bergroth from Kuopio University Hospital in Finland, children who grow in dog-owning families are healthier than the rest because they register fewer periods of ear infections, coughs and running noses. The explanation that the doctors provided was that the allergens brought in the house by the dog and sometimes by the cat contribute to the strengthening of the babies’ immune system.
The research was performed with the help of 397 infants that were born in the Finnish hospital between September 2002 and May 2005. Parents were asked to fill out weekly diaries starting with week nine. At the end of the child’s first year they were asked to fill out a more complex questionnaire about the health problems that the baby has experienced and the infant’s interaction with animals.
35 percent babies lived with a dog in the house, whereas 25 percent with a cat. Results have shown that dogs tend to have a better influence on children than cats. Parents’ weekly diaries have shown that 72 and 76 percent babies with dogs did not experience health problems, whereas only 65 percent of those who did not own a pet were healthy. In addition, babies with dogs at home are 44 percent less likely to get ear infection and 29 percent less likely to get antibiotics.
The situation gets even better if the dog spends great part of the day in the courtyard as the baby’s immune system will get even stronger. Even though the “hygiene hypotheses” proves that children have less respiratory problems if they own a pet, it doesn’t mean that babies can’t get sick for another reason.