Is having a pet good for your children’s health?

Having a pet would be beneficial for the health of children. According to a recent study, having a dog helps reduce the risk of asthma in young children.
Research suggests that growing up with a dog or cat is good for children. A study, published last week in JAMA Pediatrics, concludes that children who had a dog in the early years of life are 13% less likely to develop asthma by age 6, compared to children who grow up in households without pets.

The survey used a Swedish registry that contains data on more than one million children. They found that children who grew up on farms and lived with animals on a daily basis were 50% less likely to develop asthma at a young age. These results are consistent with the “hygiene” hypothesis, which believes that children are more likely to develop allergies if they grow up in “ultra-clean” environments, explains Dr. Luisa Dillner, head of the BMJ Group Research and Development, in The Guardian.

Dogs offer better protection than cats

A study of 397 Finnish babies, published in the journal Pediatrics in 2012, had already shown that babies whose parents owned dogs or cats had fewer colds and ear infections. They also needed less antibiotics than other babies.

Cats and dogs are the most common pets. There is no tangible evidence that cats help reduce allergies. It seems that dogs offer better protection.

In addition, pets that spend less than six hours a day in the house and are often outdoors offer more protective effects. Scientists believe this is because the outside environment provides a better stimulation of the immune system.

Other benefits

Apart from health, the general environment and family situation also benefit from the presence of a pet. Indeed, animals increase the time spent with the family and the amount of fun experienced. Having a pet also allows children to learn how to take responsibility for themselves, how to exercise while taking it out (if it is a dog, for example), and how to deal with loss when the animal dies.

However, health benefits alone do not justify the presence of a pet. It should not be forgotten that they also have drawbacks, such as having worms or other parasites.