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Dogs and Asthma: Children Who Grow Up With Dogs Less Likely To Develop Disease, Researchers Say

Nov 03, 2015 05:46 PM EST
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Child and Dog
Children exposed to animals are less likely to develop asthma later in life.
(Photo : Flickr: Rob Bixby)

Children who grow up with dogs are 15 percent less likely to develop asthma, a new study has revealed. This research stems from previous studies that were designed to examine the relationship between farm animals and asthma. In the recent study, however, researchers from Uppsala University combined data collected from more than one million Swedish children and two dog ownership registries. Their goal was to determine if children exposed to animals at a young age were more or less likely to develop asthma later in life.  

"Earlier studies have shown that growing up on a farm reduces a child's risk of asthma to about half. We wanted to see if this relationship also was true also for children growing up with dogs in their homes," Tove Fall, an assistant professor in epidemiology in the Department of Medical Sciences at Uppsala University, said in a news release. "Our results confirmed the farming effect, and we also saw that children who grew up with dogs had about 15 percent less asthma than children without dogs. Because we had access to such a large and detailed data set, we could account for confounding factors such as asthma in parents, area of residence and socio-economic status."

Swedish medical registries provided researchers with a plethora of information. The Swiss are prolific record keepers – with every doctor's visit recorded. A similar registry exists for dogs, so researchers were presented with a unique opportunity to examine potential correlations between dog ownership and childhood asthma.  

"These kind of epidemiological studies look for associations in large populations but do not provide answers on whether and how animals could protect children from developing asthma. We know that children with established allergy to cats or dogs should avoid them, but our results also indicate that children who grow up with dogs have reduced risks of asthma later in life," Catarina Almqvist Malmros, senior author on the study and a Pediatrician at Astrid Lindgren Children's Hospital, added in a statement. "Thanks to the population-based design, our results are generalizable to the Swedish population, and probably also to other European populations with similar culture regarding pet ownership and farming."

The findings were recently published in JAMA Pediatrics.

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