Pets Reduce the Risk of Allergies and Obesity in Infants


Cats can raise babies’ immunity to allergies and childhood obesity

A new study performed by scientists from the University of Alberta might make you reconsider your decision of keeping your children away from pets at an early age. It found that infants are at a smaller risk of developing allergic diseases or of becoming obese if they have pets.

Pets increase the immunity of a baby

The findings were published in the journal Microbiome. They state that the microbial flora found in the infants’ guts is altered if they live with pets from an early age. Namely, they get exposed to two kinds of microbes, which makes them develop antibodies for allergic diseases and obesity.

Anita Kozyrskyj, the lead author of the study, said that children develop immunity at the same time when microbes start developing in their guts, and that is quite early in life. Thus, exposing them to more microbes makes their immunity grow stronger.

The study was dubbed CHILD (Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development Study). Mothers were able to enroll in the project while they were pregnant. Thus, the study gathered 746 infants who were born between 2009 and 2012. Researchers collected fecal samples from these infants and analyzed them.

Also, the mothers were asked if they had any pets during their pregnancy. Then, three months after they gave birth, they were questioned again regarding their pets. More than half of the mothers reported that they were pet owners during their second and third trimester of their pregnancy, and they also kept the pets after they gave birth.

Pets also bring benefits during pregnancy

After analyzing the fecal samples, researchers made an interesting discovery. The children who had at least one pet in their home when they were newborns had higher levels of two microbes in their guts. These microbes are Ruminococcus and Oscillospira. The presence of Ruminococcus triggers a higher immunity to allergies, while Oscillospira reduces the risk of childhood obesity.

A pet does not only benefit an infant during his first months of live, but it can also benefit him before being born. The furry animal brings benefits starting from pregnancy and up until the infant turns three months. One important reason to have a pet while pregnant is the lower risk of transmitting Streptococcaceae to the fetus.

Thus, the direct or indirect transfer of bacteria from pets to children is beneficial. It contributes to the development of healthy microbes in the children’s gut, and it contributes to his immunity, keeping him away from allergies and childhood obesity.
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