Taking care of Fido may have a lot more hidden benefits than you think.
In a new study from Finland, researchers found that children who grow up with cats and dogs are less likely to get respiratory infections during their first year of life, MSNBC reported.
Published in the journal Pediatrics, the study followed 397 children from when their mothers were pregnant to when they were a year old.
The study showed that having dogs or cats during early infancy can actually protect against these illnesses, similar to recent research that showed a link between pets and decreased risk of childhood asthma.
“We speculated that maybe the dogs somehow can bring dirt or soil inside the house, and then the immune system is strengthened, or maybe it’s something about the animals themselves,” said study researcher Dr. Eija Bergroth, a pediatrician at the Kuopio University Hospital in Finland.
However, the researchers emphasized that this link was just a correlation, not a causal relationship. In other words, there might be other factors affecting kids’ risk of respiratory illness that we just don’t know about yet.
Nonetheless, the new findings support the hypothesis that too-clean environments can actually be detrimental to a child’s health. In the study, babies living with dogs had 31 percent fewer respiratory tract symptoms/infections and 44 percent fewer ear infections. While owning a cat also indicated health benefits, the effect was much weaker.
So the next time your kids start begging for a puppy, this might be something to consider—a little bit of dirt and pet dander might not be so bad after all.
Would you get a pet to help your kids' health, or are there better ways to protect against colds? Let us know in the comments.