Kids with dogs less likely to feel 'ruff'

NEW research has given weight to a theory a lot of veterinarians have had for many years - that a dog in the home results in healthier children.

Dr Peter Higgins, veterinary adviser and spokesman for Dogs NSW welcomed the new findings.

“It is exciting to prove that children with dogs are healthier, and suffer fewer infections, than children in a pet-free home,” he said.

“It appears that children with dogs have a better immune system than those that don’t have dogs.’’

The research was conducted in Finland by a university hospital. Respiratory diseases and other infections were tracked and recorded over a period of one year.

The results were conclusive. Children with dogs had less respiratory problems and fewer infections. Their general health was better than those children that did not have dogs as pets.

“It’s no surprise to me that children with dogs are healthier. I have noticed this quite a lot in over 20 years of being a veterinarian,” Dr Higgins said.

“This can be explained by thinking that a dog that is constantly around a child is like a continuous vaccination. It builds immunity in small doses.”

The research also showed that dogs had to spend time outdoors to produce the best results. The theory is that dogs bring in germs from the outside world and this builds the immune system of children in the early stages of development.

“Previous research shows that children need to be exposed to low levels of microbes from lots of different sources at an early age,” Dr Higgins said.

This exposure builds resistance to infections and there is evidence to show a reduced number of allergy sufferers as well.”

The research did not answer the question of how long the increased immunity lasted.

“I guess the question is now do we have one dog as a vaccination early in our childhood or do we need booster shots by having a dog around as we grow older?” Dr Higgins said.

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