Your Family Pet Could Prevent Allergies And Childhood Obesity

  • Pregnancy
    Parents Only

By: Alex Harmon, ellaslist

Good news for family pet owners! New studies conducted by the University of Alberta in Canada have shown that early-life exposure to our beloved furry animals may reduce the risk of developing allergies and obesity. 

Researchers have found that babies from families with pets are more likely to have high levels of two microbes that have been associated with reduced childhood allergies and obesity – and the beneficial exposure can even be transferred to babies who are still in the womb. Which means, even those families which choose to re-home their pets when mum is pregnant can still receive the benefits. 

Microbes can be a good thing for our gut microbiome and immune systems and actually develop alongside our gut’s “germs.”  It has been shown that if babies grow up in a more “sterile” pet-free environment, they could be more unprepared to “fight” germs as they grow up.

Anita Kozyrskyj a pediatric epidemiologist involved in the study said, "The abundance of these two bacteria (Firmicutes microbes) were increased twofold when there was a pet in the house," and added that the pet exposure was shown to affect the gut microbiome indirectly—from dog to mother to unborn baby—during pregnancy as well as during the first three months of the baby's life.

Pets have previously been found to benefit the social development of children with autism, reduce children's anxiety and stress, and even provide better companionship than siblings.

As for boosting babies' levels of gut bacteria without the hassle of owning a pet, Kozyrskyj says in the future scientists may be able figure out how to deliver the microbial benefits that furry animals naturally provide. 

Could we see a 'dog in a pill' treatment to help prevent allergies and obesity? Anything is possible!