Pets may Lower Risk of Allergies, Obesity: New Study

It is often surprising for parents of allergy-prone children to learn that having pets in the home may actually reduce, rather than trigger, allergic reactions.  It does not happen overnight, but as yet another scientific study has demonstrated, over time the body develops resistance to common forms of bacteria linked with chronic allergic responses–and now this latest study indicates the same may hold true for obesity* and group B strep, the latter linked with blood infections, pneumonia and meningitis in newborns. 


*The link with lowered risk of obesity later in life was especially strong when babies are exposed to pets while in the womb and for up to three months of age.


Why owning a pet could protect your baby from obesity and allergies

A study at the University of Alberta in Canada found that being exposed to pets early in life may reduce the risk of developing allergies and obesity. Researchers found that babies from families with pets, especially dogs, had higher levels of two types of microbes that are known to lower risks of allergies and obesity.

Pet exposure may reduce allergies and obesity – University of Alberta

If you need a reason to become a dog lover, how about their ability to help protect kids from allergies and obesity?

A new University of Alberta study showed that babies from families with pets—70 per cent of which were dogs—showed higher levels of two types of microbes associated with lower risks of allergic disease and obesity.


Timing of bringing a pet into the family is important

“There’s definitely a critical window of time when gut immunity and microbes co-develop, and when disruptions to the process result in changes to gut immunity.”

-Anita Kozyrskyj, a U of A pediatric epidemiologist and one of the world’s leading researchers on gut microbes—microorganisms or bacteria that live in the digestive tracts of humans and animals.

The latest findings from Kozyrskyj and her team’s study…(registered in the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development ) on two decades of research that show children who grow up with dogs have lower rates of asthma.

The theory is that exposure to dirt and bacteria early in life—for example, in a dog’s fur and on its paws—can create early immunity, though researchers aren’t sure whether the effect occurs from bacteria on the furry friends or from human transfer by touching the pets, said Kozyrskyj.

Journal source: The study, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Allergy, Genes and Environment Network (AllerGen NCE), was published in the journal Microbiome, along with an editorial in Nature.