What do dogs and cats have to do with health? Apparently, more than we ever imagined! According to several research studies, pets lower the risk of several illnesses in children and may extend life expectancy.
Reporters from the Pediatrics journal studied babies and found that those with a pet at home – specifically dogs and cats – were less likely to suffer from sickness than those kids that were in homes with no animals. This study supports the notion that kids in overly sanitized environments fare worse. A recent research study also found that mice exposed to household dust that had dogs living in them were less susceptible to viruses.
So exactly how do animals protect kids against diseases. Although the answer is not completely clear, researchers believe that pet dander exposure holds the answer. Specifically, when applied to babies and their immune systems, they are still in development and must learn to adapt to fend off diseases, which may aid their overall health more so than previously believed.
Anthrozoology covers medicine, education, social work, veterinary science and more in an effort to study the interaction between humans and animals and has revealed substantial benefits to those that have animals as companions. Dogs and cats have been at the heart of many of these studies as they have been culturally linked around the world for thousands of years. Researchers state that they believe pets mature the immune systems of babies faster to better prepare them for microbes. Indeed, babies that lived in homes with cats and dogs were less likely to have ear infections at a rate of 44%, and also less likely to need antibiotics by 29%.
In general, those with dogs were healthier than those that had cats. Babies that lived in homes with dogs fared about 31% better than those that lived in pet free homes. Kids in cat homes fared 6% better than those without cats in their homes. This news is encouraging and means that overusing antibiotics is something to be avoided at all costs. There are also more benefits attributed to having pets including reduced allergies, better mental health, less school absenteeism, even better social skills.
Despite all the research and good news, however, it is not necessary that you go out and get a dog or cat if there isn’t already one in your household. There is research that theorizes that children around pets may develop a predisposition to developing certain allergies and even asthma, so having a pet can sometimes exacerbate symptoms in young kids. Also, there is some research that theorizes that microbes in urban areas may differ from those in rural ones, and this may be why some kids react differently in certain areas of the world based on exposure to pets.
Since it seems the beginning of recorded history, dogs have been trained to work with humans more because they are easier to train than cats, but that trend may be coming to an end as the benefits of cats become more known and gains popularity.