A Dog Can Be Your Baby’s Best Friend When it comes to Health

By Jamell Addrews

New or expectant moms may worry about having a pet with a new baby in the house, but a recent study on the effects of a furry pet on a baby’s health shows that Fido may just be a baby’s best friend when it comes to health.

A new study suggests that having a family dog or other furry pet may help your baby avoid allergies and obesity later in life. The results of the study by researchers at the University of Alberta in Alberta, Canada were recently published in the journal Microbiome.

How Exposure to a Pet Protects Your Baby

The study involved 746 infants from the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development Study of expectant mothers who were enrolled between 2009 and 2012.

Of the families involved in the study, 70 percent had dogs while others had cats or other furry pets, and over half of the study’s infants were exposed to at least one furry pet.

The study found that infants from families with furry pets, especially dogs, had an increased amount of gut microbes that are linked to a lower risk of allergic disease and obesity. The theory is that babies who are exposed to the bacteria and dirt on a pet’s paws or fur helps create immunity early. This was found to be the case not only for babies in the first 3 months of life, but also from a mother’s interaction with the pet to her unborn baby.

The microbes help the immune system react to pathogenic microbes that can be harmful and not react to the good microbes and nutrients from food that is beneficial to the body.

The results from the study add to earlier findings of lower rates of asthma in kids who grow up in homes with dogs. An increased level of one of the microorganisms is associated with being leaners and protecting against obesity.

Even More Benefits for Newborns

The study also found that pets in the home may also reduce the risk of a mother transmitting a strep infection to her baby at birth, which can result in pneumonia.

The health benefits of having a pet have been studied for years. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), pets can decrease cholesterol, triglyceride, and high blood pressure, as well as feelings of loneliness. A study published in the journal Science also found that both an owner’s and dog’s oxytocin levels increased when the owner stared into the eyes of the dog. Oxytocin is one of the body’s “feel good” chemicals that also play a role in social bonding in animals.

With all of these health benefits and the unconditional love of a pet, it looks like adding a furry addition to the family is the way to go.