We already know that pets calm and soothe us, reducing stress levels, lowering our blood pressure, and also keeping us in good shape (as long as we don’t keep couch-potatoes). As if passionate pet owners need additional convincing that dogs are good for our health, new research has found even more evidence that dogs contribute to better physical health, in the form of protection from asthma and other kinds of respiratory viruses.
Researchers from UC San Francisco and the University of Michigan have found that dust from houses where dogs are present may actually provide protection from respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a respiratory virus that is associated with a higher risk of developing childhood asthma. There has already been some research to show that children who grow up with house pets show increased protection from developing asthma, and this is the latest lab research to provide even stronger evidence to support this claim.
To test whether dogs in fact do provide added protection against developing asthma, the researchers conducted a study using three groups of mice (the scientific lab stand-ins for children, I suppose). They exposed one group of mice to house dust collected from homes that also had one or more dogs as a pet, and then exposed this group of mice to RSV. Another group of mice was not exposed to house dust but was also exposed to the virus. A final group of mice was exposed neither to the house dust or the RSV.
Interestingly, the researchers found that the first group of mice, the mice that were exposed to the dog-dander-laden house dust and subsequently exposed to RSV, didn’t show any of the typical symptoms associated with the virus, such as airway inflammation or mucus production. In contrast, the second group of mice that were also exposed to the virus but NOT to the house dust DID show respiratory symptoms. As expected, the control third group, who were exposed to neither house dust nor the virus, showed no symptoms.
The researchers also collected microbes from the animals’ guts and found that the house dust group had a distinct bacterial composition that differed from either of the other two groups of mice, which could actually provide some immunity or protection from asthma-like symptoms through colonization within the gut.
Of course, some people still have pet allergies, and no amount of research will hold up to an animal-related sneezing fit, if you happen to be in the middle of one. Even if you don’t have dog- or cat-specific allergies, animals can carry a large amount of allergens on their fur from the outdoors right into your house, taking up residence on your furniture, in your carpets, drapes, and *ahhh-chooo!* in your bedding. It’s likely the constant low-grade exposure to these allergens that desensitize the immune response to these harmless foreign bodies that contributes to the increased protection from respiratory ailments.
However, bathing your pet on a regular basis (from every week to every six weeks, depending on the breed of dog you have, and other factors such as fur type, activity level, climate, skin condition, etc.) is one of the best possible ways to reduce the level of dust, pollen and allergens that are transported on your dog’s fur, as well as their own allergy-causing dander. Of course, frequent bathing necessitates using only the best quality, non-soap based, natural, soothing products, so that your dog’s skin won’t become dry or irritated. One of the best shampoos we offer for allergic dogs, humans, or anyone with particular sensitivities, is earthbath Clear Advantage. This is an ultra mild shampoo that, like all earthbath shampoos, is soap-free, hypo-allergenic, and pH-balanced to clean gently, thoroughly, and safely. As an added bonus, this shampoo is specially formulated in conjunction with veterinarians and groomers, to work safely and effectively alongside the latest flea control treatments and topical skin medications.