Besides teaching children responsibility and being a best friend, dogs may have another benefit for kiddos: a lower risk of asthma.
A new study – the largest to date on the subject – found that children who were surrounded by dogs may be less likely chance to develop asthma.
Researchers discovered the correlation after studying 1 million Swedish children — all born between January 2001 and December 2010 — and examining the relationship between developing asthma and being around farm animals or dogs.
The findings reaffirmed previous research that found farm animals can help decrease the probability of getting asthma, with 31 percent of preschool-age children less likely to have asthma between the ages of 1 and 5 and 52 percent of school-aged children less likely to get asthma by age 6.
The study also found that being around a dog in the first year of a child’s life may reduce the likelihood of developing asthma by 13 percent by age 6.
These finding support some past research stating that exposure to dogs can decrease the risk of developing asthma but also contradicted other studies that stated being around pets may increase the chances of developing asthma. Study author Tove Fall, an associate professor of Uppsala University in Sweden acknowledges the findings only demonstrate a correlation and does not prove having a dog will stop someone from developing asthma.
“We are quite sure that our findings are robust concerning the lower risk of asthma in Swedish dog households, but with this type of study we can never be sure that the dog in itself protects the baby from asthma,” Fall told CBS.
There are several hypotheses for this outcome.
“It might be due to a single factor or more likely, a combination of several factors related to a dog ownership lifestyle or dog-owners’ attitudes, such as kids’ exposure to household dirt and pet dust, time spent outdoors or being physically active,” Fall said. “One of the main hypotheses at the moment is that kids in animal environments breathe air that contains more bacteria and bacterial fragments, which actually could lower their risk of asthma. As a parent in a dog-and-baby-household, it is nearly impossible to keep everything clean, and maybe this is a good thing for your baby’s future health.”
Keep in mind, those that already have allergies, bringing home a canine will most likely not help a child and could possibly make the situation worse.
The findings were published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics