“We offer preliminary evidence that dog ownership may be protective against respiratory tract infections during the first year of life,” the study stated.
“We speculate that animal contacts could help to mature the immunologic system, leading to more composed immunologic response and shorter duration of infections.”
Dr. Eija Bergroth, a pediatrician who worked at Kuopio University Hospital in Finland at the time of the study, and colleagues at Kuopio University Hospital, the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Kuopio, Finland, the University of Eastern Finland and the University of Ulm in Germany, followed the progress of nearly 400 children from pregnancy to the age of one.
“If children had dog or cat contacts at home, they were significantly healthier during the study period,” said the study led by experts at Kuopio University Hospital in Finland.
The study, published in the US Journal Pediatrics, showed that cats also seemed to spin of a net of protection. However the feline effect proved weaker in comparison to their canine counterparts.
Children in homes with cats or dogs were about 30 percent less likely to have respiratory infectious symptoms—which included cough, wheezing, stuffy/runny nose and fever— and about half as likely to suffer from ear infections. The study suggested that the reasoning behind these discoveries share a relationship with the fact that a dog spends much time outdoors. When coming into contact with a child thereafter, the child’s immune’s system is then boosted from the exposure.
Children who were situated around dogs were also shown to need fewer rounds of antibiotics.
The study proved the results significant after ruling out other factors that could heighten infection risks, such as having older siblings in the household, attending daycare, not being not breastfed, and being raised with parents who have asthma or who are smokers.
The study authors stated that their research is different from analyses that have shown conflicting results in the past. The reason, they said, is because this study focuses solely on the first postnatal year and does not include older children.