Pets + Babies + What?

Are you a dog person or a cat person?

Neither? Maybe you like goldfish…snakes…parakeets…or pet llamas…

Or, maybe you’re not much of a pet person at all. If that’s the case, I don’t blame you.

Pets are certainly a big obligation.

Between feeding them, bathing them (I guess fish are already pre-bathed…), and paying their medical bills, they can be a real hassle.

And while pets are great to have around for all kinds of reasons, a new medical study shows they might actually help increase your health.

…If you’re a small child that is.

A recent study indicates the presence of furry animals in the household of an infant can help to increase his/her resistance to allergies later in life. This study was to follow up on a hypothesis that’d been floating around the scientific community supposing that pets can have a positive effect on a person’s gut bacteria.

What’s interesting is it has to do specifically with how the animal’s bacteria alter the gut bacteria in the child.

This incredible study led by researchers at the University of Alberta followed 746 infants born between 2009 and 2012.

The researchers asked the parents to report whether they had any household pets during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy, along with three months following the birth of the child.

According to the parents’ reports, roughly half (46%) of the households had some kind of furry pet in their home. 70% of these animals were dogs, so cat owners…you’re in the minority here. 

To test whether or not the pets altered the children’s gut bacteria, the researchers took stool samples from each infant at 3 months of age.

Surprisingly, they had no trouble getting multiple stool samples a day…who knew?

According to the research:

“The researchers found that infants who were exposed to furry animals before and after birth demonstrated a twofold increase in the abundance of Ruminococcus and Oscillospira in their guts, compared with infants not exposed to household pets.

These findings remained even after accounting for three factors that can influence an infant’s gut bacteria: delivery by cesarean section, antibiotics during birth, and limited breast-feeding.

Furthermore, the team found that pet exposure prior to birth appeared to reduce the transmission of vaginal group B strep (GBS) from mother to child during delivery. GBS is associated with sepsis, pneumonia, and meningitis in newborns, although GBS infection can be prevented through intravenous antibiotics during pregnancy.”

As with any preliminary study, the researchers didn’t make a firm conclusion regarding pets and the development of allergies later in life. 

However, they did posit that later on there may be the possibility of creating a “dog pill” loaded with healthy bacteria that non-pet owners might be able to take.

I say if the future bears this out, non-pet owners might have the hope of gaining some of the benefits of pet ownership without all the drool and excessive pet hair.

Talk Soon,

Dr. Wiggy

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