A six-year-long German study following some 9,000 volunteers appears to confirm what pet owners have suspected all along: that having a dog is good for your health.
Oh, I'm not talking about the things we've known for years: the extra exercise, agility, mental stimulation and emotional comfort. Having a dog, according to the study, helps to "train the immune system to be less sensitive to potential triggers for allergies like asthma, eczema and hay fever."
The research was conducted by Joachim Heinrich's team at the National Research Centre for Environmental Health in Munich. Admittedly, every study will involve a margin for human errors of memory, and in this instance parents were asked to fill out a detailed questionnaire about possible allergic symptoms in their children. However, blood samples were also taken from a third of the group (around 3,000 children) to test for common allergy antibodies.
"Our results show clearly that the presence of a dog in the home during subjects' infancy is associated with a significantly low level of sensitization to pollens and inhaled allergens."
Interestingly, children who had frequent contact with dogs but did not have a pet at home did not benefit from the same protective effect. Further study would be needed to establish the reasons why, but the hypothesis (which sounds like common sense to a lot of people) is that kids might get "beneficial early exposure to germs carried into the house on the animal's fur".
So, to those people who still wrinkle their noses and claim that animals are dirty it seems we can answer "maybe so, but our children are healthier for it!". (Besides, when was the last time those people cleaned their keyboards...?)
After all, remember Canine Charter for Human Health from Dogs Trust?
Canine Charter for Human Health
1) Owning a dog helps to reduce stress
2) Owning a dog can help to reduce blood pressure
3) Dog owners visit the doctor less
4) Dog owners take more exercise
5) Dogs can help to increase the attention span of children with learning difficulties
6) Owning a dog can boost your immune system
7) Dog owners are more likely to recover from a heart attack
8) People who have a dog tend to live longer
9) Some dogs can be trained to detect epileptic seizures
10) Dogs can help safeguard against loneliness and depression
[via The Register]