With 46.3 million American households being home to at least one dog, there’s no doubt that our canine companions are an important part of our lives. They quickly become important members of the family and go through all the trials and tribulations of family life with us. But studies have found that owning a dog can actually make us, and more importantly our children, much healthier too.
Children with a family dog less likely to have school sick days
Whether it’s the common cold, allergies or even asthma, a number of studies have found that the risk of health problems in children who have a family dog is considerably lower. Children who grow up with a dog at home have stronger immune systems and are less likely to take sick days off school. While children may just think of their family dog as a playmate, being exposed to dogs in the first year of life actually makes them less likely to develop allergies. Early exposure to pet-related bacteria and allergens strengthens the immune system, gets the body use to these allergens, and helps children to develop their own natural immunity.
Reduces risk of developing asthma by 13%
Children who had daily contact with dogs before their first birthday were found to have a 13% lower risk of developing asthma once they were school age. In fact, it’s not just dogs who are good for our health. Being exposed to farm animals was also attributed to a remarkable 52% lower chance for children of school age, and a 31% reduced risk for pre-schoolers. Children who lived with a dog from the time they were born were much less likely to develop atopic dermatitis and wheezing by the time they turned three, compared to children without a dog at home.
Dogs boost babies’ immunity even before birth
But remarkably, the positive effect that a dog has on your child’s immunity begins even before they are born. Researchers have discovered that through indirect exposure via their mother, babies are already building a stronger immune system while in the womb. Experts say this is a ‘critical window’ when a baby’s gut immunity and microbes are developing. The introduction of foreign bacteria from a pet dog can alter the immunity of the baby and impact their long-term health.
So, when you watch your children play with the family dog, just think how that playful contact is actually boosting your child’s immune system and helping to protect their health. It’s pretty remarkable, isn’t it?
Photo courtesy Kim Bartlett / Animal People, Inc.