Dogs have long been man’s best friend, providing love and companionship. New research however, reveals that the benefits of this friendship go way beyond that.
In a study at the University of Alberta, it was shown that babies from families who own pets–70 percent were dogs–had a lower risk of allergic disease, as well as obesity.
The gut micro biome–the bacteria found in the human digestive tract–is believed to be the reason for this. In the study, the two types of bacteria were found to be Ruminococcus and Oscillospira. The abundance of these bacteria in the gut increased twofold when there was a pet in the house.
The latest findings build on twenty years of research showing that children who grow up with dogs have a lower risk of asthma. The theory is that exposure to dirt and bacteria early in life can create immunity. Although scientists aren’t sure of the exact mechanism.
Interestingly, pet exposure was also shown to affect the gut micro biome indirectly during pregnancy–from dog, to mother to unborn baby. Even if the dog was given away before the baby was born, the exchange would still have taken place.
This exchange also works in cases which have been known to lower a child’s immunity such as C-section birth, lack of breastfeeding and antibiotic administration during birth.
Much like what has been done with probiotics in the health food industry, scientists are not ruling out the possibility of a future “dog in a pill” as a preventive measure.