By Roy Benaroch, MD
A study published this week in the journal Pediatrics is good news for dog lovers everywhere. Babies growing up in homes with dogs get sick less often
Finnish researchers studied the families of about 400 babies over the first year of life, tracking their health status with weekly questionnaires. They found that babies growing up with dogs in the home were sick less often, needed fewer courses of antibiotics, and had fewer ear infections. Overall, babies with no dogs were reported as healthy about 65% of the time, compared to 73% for those living with one or more dogs. The presence of cats, on the other hand, made little difference.
The authors speculate that the protective effect of dogs could be because families in dog-oriented households tend to spend more time outdoors. Also, dogs tend to track around some dirt and bacteria, which may provide some protective effects. Other research has confirmed that early animal exposures can reduce the risk of allergic disorders in addition to the infectious illnesses studied in this report.
Healthy dog ownership does require some care from parents. As toddlers explore, they need to be taught how to approach a dog safety. Kids should know not to bother a dog that is sleeping or eating, and not to approach strange dogs outside without asking an adult first.
So give your dog an extra treat. In addition to chasing mice and barking at strangers, your family pooch can help keep your children healthy. That’s something to wag about!