Dogs and Infections in Babies
Written by Faith Anderson on July 9, 2012
Exposure to Dogs More Beneficial Than to Cats
The researchers followed 397 children from birth until the age of one year, and monitored how much contact they had with dogs and/or cats during this period via a questionnaire given to parents. All infants involved in the study were born in middle or eastern Finland between September 2002 and May 2005. According to the results of the study, despite respiratory infections and infectious symptoms being common during a baby’s first year of life, those who had regular contact with dogs early in life suffered less often from respiratory diseases, had fewer symptoms of respiratory infections, and required shorter courses of antibiotics when ill, compared to other children of the same age with no exposure to dogs. In addition, researchers found that the frequency of ear infections was considerably lower among those with regular contact with dogs, and, although the positive effect on infants of having a pet cat was also detected, it was not as strong as it was with dogs.
Early Contact With Dogs Improves Babies’ Resistance to Infection
During their research, investigators compared children with a dog that spent its time indoors temporarily or often, with those who had only a pet cat, and those with no pets. They concluded that those with a pet dog in the house had the lowest risk of respiratory tract infections and infections in general, while those with no pets in the house had the highest rates of infections. Weekly and yearly contact with dogs was also found to be closely linked to overall vulnerability to illness: the more contact there was, the lower the morbidity. The researchers believe that early contact with animals, particularly dogs, impacts the maturation of the immune system in babies, resulting in shorter-lasting infections and better overall resistance to respiratory infections.