You’ve got to admit it — babies and dogs are adorable together. It will absolutely melt your heart to look at your baby trying to make sense of the big lovable furry creature, and your dog trying to be gentle with the newest addition to the family.
But if you’re concerned about your baby’s health with a dog in the house — don’t be, because it can actually be good for your little one! In fact, your baby’s early years spent with a pet in the house can mean a lower chance of coughs and colds for the rest of their life.
Also, read Reasons To Get A Pet
A study published in the research journal Pediatrics had findings that confirmed that babies who lived in a house with pet dogs were less likely to get sick than babies who lived pet-free. We hear a lot of opposing arguments surrounding ideal parenting these days, and you’ve probably heard the ideology that overly-sanitized and clean areas for your babies can actually lower their immune system.
This finding only strengthens the idea that babies benefit from exposure to microbes from the outside world. The newly developing immune systems of babies largely determine what it will be like for the rest of their lives. Having pets around the house can actually lower your child’s chances of developing allergies or even respiratory viruses that increase the likelihood of contracting childhood asthma.
This exposure to the pet dander as well the many bacteria and microbes from outside environments can somehow have a maturing effect on the baby’s immune system, according to Dr. Eija Bergroth, a Finnish pediatrician.
The study was conducted in Finland between 2002 and 2005, following the health reports of 397 children. In fact, this study was included in the popular Netflix documentary series ‘Babies’. What these researchers did was follow the health logs of these children with regular check-ups every week, looking at symptoms like coughing, sneezing, runny noses, and ear infections. They also paid attention to how often kids got so sick that they had to take antibiotics.
The data led them to an incredible inference: babies that grew up in a house with pet dogs were 44% less likely than pet-free children to contract an ear infection. They were also 29% less likely to have to take any antibiotic medication. This is a big deal when you take into consideration how over-dosing of antibiotics can cause drug-resistance which can be a big problem.
Interestingly, there seem to be greater benefits for the babies when they’re living with a dog that goes out on long walks! Dogs that stay mostly indoors stay relatively ‘cleaner’ and don’t bring as many microbes from the outside world.
The study also found that dogs were better in terms of health benefits for babies. Cats had a modest, if best, the effect on the health of babies. While the Finnish study didn’t have much of an explanation as to why cats didn’t help out with our little ones’ immunity: I can only assume that it’s because cats are notorious for grooming themselves and keeping themselves much cleaner, saving those microbes for themselves!
It’s important to remember that this study only talks about the correlation between babies’ health and dogs if the pets were already in the house! If your baby has childhood asthma tendencies, allergies, and a weak immune system, getting a dog will only aggravate the situation.