Pets are good for people. I firmly believe that, and I have mentioned it repeatedly on this blog. People with dogs get more exercise, on average, than people who don’t have dogs. (The other day I saw a very elderly man walking his Jack Russell Terrier. Without the dog, I have a hunch that gentleman would rarely leave the house.) Pets provide companionship and a sense of well-being to the people with whom they live. Cats and dogs are used in hospitals and nursing homes to cheer and comfort patients–with remarkable success. They can be trained to assist people with vision impairment, Parkinson’s disease, hearing loss, and even diabetes.
Of course, most of us on Catster and Dogster will agree that pets are good for our health and well-being. And a growing amount of scientific evidence is proving that pets benefit us in ways that are not so self-evident.
A recent article published by the AFP (a French global news agency) states that children who live with dogs may get an immune system boost from the family pet.
Blood tests showed that, in households with dogs, children were less at risk from becoming sensitised to pollens and inhaled allergens–the triggers for asthma and wheezing, allergic rhinitis and eczema–than counterparts in dog-less homes.
Sadly, the article also contains some disappointing news.
Oddly, though, the benefit seen in the children’s antibodies did not show through in terms of symptoms, the study found. Children with a dog were as susceptible to asthma and the other problems as counterparts without the pets.
This statement should not be construed to imply that the children were not receiving a health benefit from their canine companions. The study provides potent evidence that a household pet can help to stimulate the development of early childhood immune systems.
As scientists and doctors love to say: more research is necessary.