Having a dog at home makes infants healthier, a Finnish study has found.
The study of 397 children in rural and suburban parts of Finland — published in the medical journal, Pediatrics — has found that infants living in a home with a family dog were healthier and less prone to ear infections.
The same study found cats also have a beneficial health effect on infants, though less marked.
In the study, parents with children one year or younger were asked to fill out a weekly questionnaire as to their child’s general health. Parents with a dog as a family pet described their babies as healthy 73 per cent of the time, compared to 65 per cent of households that had no dog.
“The children having dogs at home were healthier, they had less ear infections and they needed less antibiotics,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Eija Bergroth, a pediatrician with Kuopio University Hospital in Kuopio, Finland.
Bergroth further noted that the more time a dog spends outside, the greater the health benefit for the infant. It is widely believed that exposure to dirt and bacteria helps build up a baby’s immune system.
The same study of infants born between September, 2002 and May, 2005 showed a family cat had a similar though less obvious benefit.
The data from the weekly questionnaires was analyzed in different ways to rule out other possible factors such as breastfeeding, low-birth weight, the number of siblings at home and whether the mother smoked during pregnancy.