It’s likely that dogs make bacteria in the home and the body more diverse, and thereby help strengthen the immune system. That's the overall conclusion of several recent studies on links between human immune system function, the human microbiome, and the presence or absence of a canine companion in the household.
James Gern, MD, professor, Allergy, Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, led a study finding that that 3-month-old infants who lived in homes with an abundance of certain pet and dust allergens had a lower risk of developing asthma.
"Our observations imply that exposure to a broad variety of indoor allergens, bacteria, and bacterial products early in life may reduce the risk of developing asthma. Additional research may help us identify specific targets for asthma prevention strategies," said Dr. Gern.
- "Can Dogs Keep Kids from Getting Allergies?," WebMD, July 16, 2018
- "UW-Madison study finds pets and pests in infancy can lower asthma risk among inner-city youth," Department of Medicine, November 13, 2017
Photo (top): A therapy dog from Dogs On Call makes a health- and wellness-promoting visit to internal medicine residents in May, 2018.