Skip to content

More research supports that being exposed to pets during pregnancy or in the first months of life changes the gut bacteria, and in a way that is thought to be beneficial. The researchers found that infants exposed to pets prenatally or after birth (or both) had higher levels of two microbes that are associated with a lower risk of allergies and obesity. The two microbes are Ruminococcus and Oscillospira, but in case you're wondering - they are not (yet) available in probiotics.

And these differences in gut bacteria occurred no matter how the infants were born or fed (C-section, vaginal, breastfed, formula fed), or whether they received antibiotics at birth or not  - it was the pet exposure that was most important. The evidence is building that if one wants to avoid allergies in children - to have them exposed to furry pets in the first  year of life, and according to this study - perhaps before birth also. From Science Daily:

Pet exposure may reduce allergy and obesity

A new University of Alberta study showed that babies from families with pets -- 70 per cent of which were dogs -- showed higher levels of two types of microbes associated with lower risks of allergic disease and obesity.

"There's definitely a critical window of time when gut immunity and microbes co-develop, and when disruptions to the process result in changes to gut immunity," said Anita Kozyrskyj, a U of A pediatric epidemiologist....The latest findings from Kozyrskyj and her team's work on fecal samples collected from infants registered in the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development study build on two decades of research that show children who grow up with dogs have lower rates of asthma

Her team of 12, including study co-author and U of A post-doctoral fellow Hein Min Tun, take the science one step closer to understanding the connection by identifying that exposure to pets in the womb or up to three months after birth increases the abundance of two bacteria, Ruminococcus and Oscillospira, which have been linked with reduced childhood allergies and obesity, respectively.

"The abundance of these two bacteria were increased twofold when there was a pet in the house," said Kozyrskyj, adding 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. In other words, even if the dog had been given away for adoption just before the woman gave birth, the healthy microbiome exchange could still take place.

The study also showed that the immunity-boosting exchange occurred even in three birth scenarios known for reducing immunity, as shown in Kozyrskyj's previous work: C-section versus vaginal delivery, antibiotics during birth and lack of breastfeeding. What's more, Kozyrskyj's study suggested that the presence of pets in the house reduced the likelihood of the transmission of vaginal GBS (group B Strep) during birth, which causes pneumonia in newborns and is prevented by giving mothers antibiotics during delivery. [Original study.]

It's official - the medical community has accepted that a key element in preventing allergies and asthma is early childhood exposure to allergens - whether peanuts, dust, or pets. Instead of avoiding the allergens (which was the medical advice for decades) - getting early exposure to them is key to preventing allergies. Apparently growing up on a farm is best (with exposure to farm dirt and dust), especially a dairy farm with animals and raw milk (a number of studies have found that unprocessed raw milk and its microbes also helps health). But if one doesn't live on a farm, then having furry pets in early childhood is also beneficial in reducing the incidence of allergies. The following study shows that microbes are involved - pet microbes were found in the guts of many of those children who did not develop early allergies! From Medscape:

Furry Pets 'Enrich' Gut Bacteria of Infants at Risk for Allergies

In a small, preliminary study, infants in households with furry pets were found to share some of the animals' gut bacteria - possibly explaining why early animal exposure may protect against some allergies, researchers say. The infants' mothers had a history of allergy, so the babies were at increased risk. It was once thought that pets might be a trigger for allergies in such children, the authors pointed out online September 3 in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

"Earlier it was thought that exposure to pets early in childhood was a risk factor for developing allergic disease," coauthor Dr. Merja Nermes, of the University of Turku in Finland, told Reuters Health by email. "Later epidemiologic studies have given contradictory results and even suggested that early exposure to pets may be protective against allergies, though the mechanisms of this protective effect have remained elusive."Adding pet microbes to the infant intestinal biome may strengthen the immune system, she said.  ...continue reading "Early Childhood Experiences Key to Preventing Allergies"