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Dogs Can Be Your Asthma-Prone Baby’s Best Friend

Dogs Can Be Your Asthma-Prone Baby’s Best Friend

Having a dog may help prevent your baby from developing asthma, according to research from a team at the University of California. Dust from households with dogs is different from dust from homes without pets and, says The Scientist, “now it appears this unique bacterial assemblage may confer an advantage to the youngest members of the household,” if they are at risk for developing asthma:

Mice fed dog-home dust before being exposed to the common infant infection respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which is associated with a high risk of developing asthma, appear to be immune to the virus compared to mice fed on normal house dust.

The immune mice also had “a distinct gastrointestinal bacterial composition,” Kei Fujimura, part of the team from the University of California that announced its findings at the American Society for Microbiology General Meeting last month (June 19), told Wired Science.

Whatever microbes the dogs have actually “may take residence in the gastrointestinal tract of the mice and play a role in modulating the immune response to RSV.”

The researchers are now investigating precisely what microbial species, or combination of them, might be involved with the hopes of developing a vaccine for respiratory diseases.

These findings stood out to me as I had severe asthma as a child; due to relatives’ allergies, we had no pets except for some goldfish.

The research also brings to mind the “hygiene hypothesis,” which argues that children  who are exposed in early life to more microbes (from other children, from animals) develop immune systems that are better able to tolerate the irritants causing asthma and related conditions including food allergies.

Just as being exposed to bacteria associated with living in rural areas may protect children who are especially at risk to hypersensitivity to certain allergens, so, it seems, can some microbes carried by dogs offer special protection for babies prone to asthma and related conditions.

As the Life Lines blog comments, Fujimura and his colleagues’ research is further reason that dogs can indeed be “baby’s best friend.”


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Photo by Lunchbox Photography

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8:14AM PDT on Apr 15, 2013

I wonder what will be next. Will you say that smoking is healthy, or something?

8:13AM PDT on Apr 15, 2013

Hmmm... I've always heard the opposite.

3:17AM PST on Feb 15, 2013

They're our best partners when taking care of patients

1:19PM PST on Jan 20, 2013

Considering how dogs and cats clean themselves...I would not want a dog licking my child in the mouth.

6:50PM PDT on Sep 13, 2012

interesting findings! funny picture, LOL! i know that feeling all too well. get close to a dog's face and before you have chance to react you have a tongue in your face.

8:56PM PDT on Aug 11, 2012

I love animals, but in my case exposure to animals from I was little didn't prevent me from developing allergies and severe asthma.

I wouldn't recommend letting a dog lick your baby's face. They might get rashes (I did) and more important, they can accidentally transfer dangerous parasites like heart worm, tape worm and hook worm that way.

6:54PM PDT on Jul 10, 2012

WOW! This is good to know.. Thank you.

3:45PM PDT on Jul 10, 2012


8:32AM PDT on Jul 10, 2012


4:21AM PDT on Jul 10, 2012

It has been proven that dogs have way cleaner mouths than humans and toilets so I have no issue with kisses from my dog. And I have always been kissed by all my dogs to no ill effect.

I grew up with dogs from a very young age and just like Johnice they helped me in more ways than expected by 'acting up' when there was a problem with me. If only they could be trained to fetch my inhaler but they wouldn't go near them without curling their little boxer lips. They slept with me and went everywhere with me and I NEVER suffered an asthma attack because of pet dander.

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Kristina Chew Kristina Chew teaches and writes about ancient Greek and Latin and is Online Advocacy and Marketing... more
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