NOV 08, 2017 6:38 AM PST

Can Having a Dog Reduce Allergies and Asthma?

Dogs can be wonderful pets, but for those with allergies, they can be a problem. Approximately 15% of people in the United States are allergic to dogs. While many believe it's the fur on dogs that causes allergies, it's the dander.

Dander is produced by the saliva glands and sebaceous glands on a dog. Proteins from these glands get released into the air and on surfaces where the dog is, and that is what causes the sneezing and itching. 

There could be some good news about dogs and allergies, however. Two recent studies show that having a dog can help prevent eczema, which is common in people who have allergies or asthma. A dog in the home can also provide some protection against asthma symptoms in some cases. The American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology presented the research recently, and the results could have some families reconsidering a pet.

In the first study, the researchers looked at the incidence of eczema. The condition, which causes itchy scaly patches on skin is often found in babies or young children. The cause can be genetic, but can also come about in areas like the elbows and knees where the skin can get hot or sweaty. When these areas stay moist, eczema can result. Dr. Gagandeep Cheema is an allergist and authored the study. He explained, "Although eczema is commonly found in infants, many people don't know there is a progression from eczema to food allergies to nasal allergies and asthma. We wanted to know if there was a protective effect of having a dog that slowed down that progress."

The study looked at mothers and children who had been exposed to a dog. As a standard amount, the study involved households that had one or more dogs inside the home for at least an hour a day while the mother was pregnant. The results of that study showed that when a pregnant woman has a dog around, her child's risk of eczema is significantly lower. The protective effect decreases over time, however, and by age ten is no longer detectable. 

The other study concerning dogs and children looked at exposure to the protein that causes allergies. This protein is present in homes and on surfaces where dogs live. There are also elements that dogs carry, including bacteria, and these were part of the second study as well. The study participants were children with asthma. Po-Yang Tsou, MD, MPH, lead author of the study stated, "Among urban children with asthma who were allergic to dogs, spending time with a dog might be associated with two different effects. There seems to be a protective effect on asthma of non-allergen dog-associated exposures, and a harmful effect of allergen exposure." While the allergens on a dog were still a problem for allergic children, the other elements like bacteria and certain germs seemed to provide a bit of protection from asthma symptoms.

The recent research is reassuring for some and validates previous research by other scientists that show a pet can reduce the risk of childhood asthma. The video below explains more, check it out.


Sources: American College of Allergy Asthma and Immunology, Science Direct, Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America

About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
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