Study suggests pet exposure might help protect babies from allergies, obesity

Dogs might prevent babies from developing allergies

EDMONTON — A family dog may be a baby’s best friend for avoiding allergies and becoming obese later in life, a new study suggests.

Research at the University of Alberta shows infants from families with furry pets, especially dogs, showed higher levels of two types of gut microbes associated with lower risks of obesity and allergic disease.

“The abundance of these bacteria were increased twofold when there was a pet in the house,” said Anita Kozyrskyj, a pediatric epidemiologist who is one of the world’s leading researchers on gut microbes.

The findings of her research team were published Thursday in the journal Microbiome.

The study theory suggests that babies exposed to dirt and bacteria from a pet’s fur or paws can create early immunity. The exposure can happen from pet-to-mother-to-unborn baby as well as during the first three months of the infant’s life.

“This interaction is required for a baby’s immune system to develop,” she said.

“The microbes are training the immune system to react to harmful entities like pathogenic microbes and not react to beneficial microbes and food nutrients.”

Kozyrskyj said the findings build on the work of earlier research that found that children who grow up with dogs have lower rates of asthma.

Higher levels of one of the microbes are associated with leanness and protect against obesity. 

The research involved 746 infants from the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development Study whose mothers were enrolled during pregnancy between 2009 and 2012.

The study also suggests having pets in the house could reduce the chances of a mother passing on a strep infection during birth, which can cause pneumonia in newborns.

The research said 70 per cent of the families involved in the study had dogs. Others had cats or other furry pets.

Over half of the study’s infants were exposed to at least one furry pet.

Kozyyrskyj said perhaps someone in the future will develop a “dog in a pill” to help prevent allergies and obesity.

“It’s not far-fetched that the pharmaceutical industry will try to create a supplement of these microbiomes, much like was done with probiotics,” she said. 

John Cotter, The Canadian Press

Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Tree replacement, construction scheduled for Kelowna’s Stuart Park

Sixteen trees are being removed because they are struggling, the city said

Okanagan whisky lottery adds new twists

Winners of Okanagan Spirits’ Laird of Fintry lottery announced in four batches beginning Sept. 28

BC Libertarian party names Kelowna West candidate

Matt Badura has been acclaimed as Kelowna West’s Libertarian candidate in the upcoming provincial election

QUIZ: Do you know what’s on TV?

Fall is normally the time when new television shows are released

B.C. records 98 more COVID-19 cases, most in Lower Mainland

One new senior home outbreak, Surrey Memorial outbreak over

Canadian ski resorts wrestle with pandemic-vs.-profit dilemma as COVID-19 persists

Few are actually restricting the total number of skiers they allow on the hill

Three arrested after Keremeos shooting that severely injured one man

The victim was transported by air ambulance to a regional hospital

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Victoria-area RCMP locate high-risk sex offender thanks to help of taxi cab driver

Scott Jones wanted on a Canada-wide warrant, ‘a risk to women and girls,’ police say

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A (virtual) walk around the world by 88-year-old B.C. man

George Doi says it’s simple: ‘I like walking’

End of CERB means uncertainty for some, new system for others

As of a week ago, the CERB had paid out $79.3 billion to 8.8 million people

West Kelowna Warriors complete sweep of Vernon Vipers

Warriors edge Snakes 2-1 as Okanagan Cup BCHL exhibition tournament begins

Most Read