A dog may be more than just a household pet — a new study suggests that they could be good for the health of your child as well. According to research conducted by the University of California, having a dog may help to prevent your baby from developing asthma.
The study, led by Dr. Kei Fujimura, found that pet dander from household dogs can actually work to strengthen a child’s immune system, and can help protect infants with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) from developing asthma down the road.
Fujimura and her team took dust from homes with dogs and fed it to mice that had not yet been infected with RSV. Eight days later, these mice were exposed to RSV and their immune responses were compared to the other two groups in the study — mice that were infected with RSV without exposure to dust, and a control group of healthy mice that had not been infected with RSV.
The study revealed that the mice that were fed dust did not exhibit symptoms associated with RSV, such as inflammation and the production of mucus. Fujimura presented her team’s findings at the 112th American Society for Microbiology General Meeting last month, also noting that these immune mice had “a distinct gastrointestinal bacterial composition compared to animals not fed dust.”
According to Fujimura, the findings indicate that “microbes within dog-associated house dust may colonize the gastrointestinal tract, modulate immune responses and protect the host against the asthmagenic pathogen RSV.” She says that her study provides evidence for the hypothesis that exposing children to animals at a young age will in fact help to ward off the development of asthma and allergies.
The next step is for scientists to conduct further research into identifying the specific microbial species that help ward off the respiratory pathogen. Fujimura and her team will continue to research the topic and hope to be able to better understand how to protect children from developing RSV and asthma, and to find better ways to treat existing conditions.
After reading this, you may think twice about keeping your dog from spending too much time around your baby. It’s important, however, that you follow Cesar’s guidelines for properly introducing your dog to your child and that you set boundaries and put the safety of your baby first.