People tend to treat dogs like members of their family. Kids treat them better than that, which is fair considering how much they have in common. Children and dogs both increase oxytocin, love belly rubs, and have no qualms about pooping anywhere. But studies show that having a canine around also benefits kids’ emotional health, and it may have to do with all the good bacteria they track into the house.
Should everyone start replacing probiotics with puppies? The study, published this week in the journal Nature, looked at a small sample of 24 four-month-old infants (and their fecal samples). The data was obtained from the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) cohort study between 2008 and 2009. Of the 24 babies, 15 lived in houses with either dogs or cats. The other 9 just lived with voids in their hearts.
Researchers found that infants with pets in the home had a greater diversity of bacteria in their guts than those without pets. Two of the microbes found — Ruminococcus and Oscillospira — have been linked to lower risk of allergies and obesity. A generation ago more microbes, or germs, were considered a health hazard. As a result, it was often recommended that families with a history of allergies send their dogs to “a farm upstate,” when doctors could have been prescribing pets all along.
This confirms over 2 decades of research which shows that children who grow up with dogs have lower asthma rates than those who do not. However, this study finds a firm data link to the “hygiene hypothesis,” which states that a little dirt early in life can do a long way in terms of strengthening immune systems, and dogs are rolling in it.