NEW YORK - Reuters
Dogs are no longer just man’s best friend: The furry family members may also protect infants against breathing problems and infections, a new study suggests.
Researchers found that Finnish babies who lived with a dog, or to a lesser extent, a cat spent fewer weeks with ear infections, coughs or running noses. They were also less likely to need antibiotics than infants in pet-free homes. Dr. Eija Bergroth from Kuopio University Hospital in Finland and colleagues said one possible explanation for that finding is that dirt and allergens brought in by animals are good for babies’ immune systems.
The researchers studied 397 infants who were born at their hospital. They found that contact with dogs, more than cats, was tied to fewer weeks of sickness for babies. For example, infants with no dog contact at home were healthy for 65 percent of parents’ weekly diary reports. That compared to between 72 and 76 percent for those who had a dog at home. Babies in dog-owning families were also 44 percent less likely to get inner ear infections and 29 percent less likely to need antibiotics.
The researchers said infants who spent more than zero but less than six hours per day at home with a dog were the least likely to get sick. “A possible explanation for this interesting finding might be that the amount of dirt brought inside the home by dogs could be higher in these families because (the dog) spent more time outdoors,” the researchers wrote yesterday in the journal Pediatrics.