Having dogs or cats may have promising benefits for would-be parents, a Canadian study suggests – good news for all pet owners.
Researchers from the University of Alberta have found that children whose mothers were exposed to house pets while they were in utero have less chances of getting life-threatening diseases such as pneumonia and meningitis. Having pets around can also lower risks that a child would develop allergies or become obese, due to microbes that are passed on from pets to mothers to children.
Couples tend to give up their cats or dogs during pregnancy, or when trying to conceive, in an attempt to make their homes safe and germ-free for babies, Mirror Daily reports. However, Anita Kozyrskyj, an epidemiologist and senior author on the study, says that having pets can actually boost a mom-to-be’s immune system, and by extension, her unborn child.
Kozyrskyj explains that while in the womb, a baby is exposed to two types of bacteria that pets pass on: oscillospira and ruminococcus. Previous studies have indicated that infants who come from families with pets have higher levels of both bacteria even three months after the pet was given away.
This early exposure can help an infant develop a specific type of resistance, Kozyrskyj says.
She and her team analyzed data on around 700 children born in Canada, focusing on those whose families had pets.
In addition to decreased risks for obesity and allergies, children who had early exposure to pets also showed an increase in resistance to group B strep, which includes pneumonia, meningitis and several types of blood infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Doctors normally treat against group B strep by administering antibiotics when a woman gives birth.
As a joke, Kozyrskyj added that those who don’t have pets need not worry, because pharmaceutical companies might soon create a “dog in a pill” to simulate the benefits these microbes offer.
The study was published in the journal Microbiome.