Study shows dogs could help strengthen infant's immune system - FOX 35 News Orlando

Study shows dogs could help strengthen immune system in infants

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OCALA, Fla. (WOGX FOX 51) -

Worried Fido might make your little ones sick? Turns out, dogs may actually protect some children from developing asthma or allergies.  Doctors now say the answer lies in your gut.

With two children, eight puppies, and six adult dogs, you could say Allison Zachary sometimes gets dog-tired trying to keep up. The 'Plenty of Pit Bulls' volunteer and her husband often battle allergies and colds, but not their girls.

"Their immune system is so much better than most kids that we know," said Zachary.

The Ocala mom had a gut feeling it was the dogs.

Four year old Haley and two year old Brook have been around them since birth.  In November, Zachary had her daughters tested for allergies.

"They were negative for everything across the board," said Zachary.  "For all of the most common allergies, pet dander, of course, was gratefully negative."

A new study by researchers at the University of California San Francisco revealed that dogs that spent time outside, but live inside, could help strengthen the immune system of an infant.

Allergist Dr. Andrew Bagg said researchers studied mice, but the same results are expected in humans.

"The children will be ingesting some kind of bacteria or changing their gut flora or the bacteria in their GI tract or in their stomach, and by doing that, it can change their immune system," said Dr. Bagg.

Scientists said dust from homes with dogs had more helpful bacteria. Those microbes enter the intestines, establishing an immune system in a child that is less sensitive to allergens.

"I didn't think it would be possible, because I know I've got a lot of allergies and my mom kept me in a little bubble," said Zachary.

Experts aren't encouraging expecting parents to buy dogs or cats, but, they say, it's a great reason to keep them.
"I would not necessarily getting a pet just for that, but if someone is interested in getting a pet I would definitely not stop them," said Dr. Bagg.

It's possible proof man's best friend might work wonders for little ones, as well.

The study mentioned in the report was funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious diseases.  Another study published last summer linked multiple dogs to a greater chance of fighting allergies by up to 77 percent.

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