Children Who Grow Up With Dogs Have Decreased Asthma Risk, Study Says

Researchers in Sweden studied more than one million kids before publishing their findings.

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Researchers still want to know why dogs might lower children's asthma risk. Via Sal/Flickr
Researchers still want to know why dogs might lower children's asthma risk. Via Sal/Flickr

Here’s some good news for parents who have both two-and four-legged children: According to a new Swedish study, kids who grow up with a dog in the house have a lower risk of developing asthma.

Researchers looked at more than 1 million children who were born in Sweden between January 2001 and December 2010 and determined that the kids who spent the first year of their lives sharing their home with a pet dog had about a 15 percent lower risk of becoming asthmatic, even if their parents had asthma, Newsweek reports.

The study authors, from Uppsala University and Karolinska Institutet, referred to their findings as part of the “farming effect,” as children who grow up on farms or around livestock are reportedly less likely to develop asthma.

This boy is clearly delighted not to have an inhaler. Via TheGiantVermin/Flickr

This boy is clearly delighted not to have an inhaler. Via TheGiantVermin/Flickr

The results of this research were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics this week. Although the findings are interesting (especially to this writer, whose asthma inhaler was her childhood best friend), the researchers still want to know why that might be the case.

“Children that are growing up in a home with a dog are exposed to more microbes,” study coordinator and Uppsala University assistant professor Tove Fall told Newsweek. “These dog households generally have this lower risk, and we need to find the mechanism behind that.”

Sweden maintains an extraordinarily detailed database of household data that includes information on not only the families themselves, but also the breed, age and gender of the dogs in those homes. Those details could help the researchers determine if certain dogs are better at decreasing asthma risk than others.

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