7 Ways Dogs Can Help Your Health
Owning a dog may improve the health of children in that household, according to new research from the University of California, San Francisco. In a study of mice, researchers found that the house dust from homes with dogs worked to protect against a common cold strain, the respiratory syncytial virus.
"Mice aren't identical to humans. There are obvious differences," explains Dr. Susan Lynch, co-investigator of the study and a professor at UCSF. "But we can do things in the animals that we could not possibly do in humans, and we can get samples to examine disease that would be very difficult to assess in humans."
Animals fed house dust from dog-owning homes did not exhibit the usual symptoms of RSV, including mucus production and lung inflammation. In fact, their symptoms were comparable to animals that weren't exposed to the virus in the first place.
So what's the big deal about RSV? It's a virus to which almost everybody has been exposed within the first few years of life. However, it can be severe -- and sometimes fatal -- in premature and chronically ill infants. It is the leading cause of bronchiolitis, which is an inflammation of the small airways in the lung, as well as pneumonia in children under 1 year of age in the United States, and it is associated with increased risk of developing asthma.
What excited researchers is that this work may help explain why pet ownership has been associated with protection against childhood asthma in the past. Their thought process is as follows: exposure to animals early in life helps "train" the immune system, which plays an integral part in asthma development. In short, there is reason to believe that germs, such as those associated with dogs, may be good for children's health under certain circumstances.
"Everybody appreciates the fact that we're all missing something big in asthma," says Dr. Robert Mellins, a pediatric pulmonologist at Columbia University in New York. "People have appreciated that viral infections clearly have an association, and this kind of experiment is interesting because it suggests a mechanism of how that could come about."
The study is far from the first to suggest the health benefits of having a canine in the family. The following are six other ways that owning a dog may improve your health and well-being.
|Dogs and Cardiovascular Health|
|Dogs and Anxiety|
|Dogs and Loneliness|
|Dogs and Rehabilitation|
|Dogs and Activity|
|Dogs and Doctors|