The Los Angeles Times had an article Monday, July 9, 2012 entitled “Dirty Dog, Happy Baby.” The bottom line was this: researchers found that infants in houses with pets got sick less frequently than other children. The study was performed in Europe on Finnish children, some in homes with a pet and others without a pet. The parents kept records and filled out questionnaires pertaining to the health of their child including if they had runny noses, colds, needed antibiotics, etc. They found that “cats and dogs were linked to a reduced incidence of various illnesses.” And – and this is really significant – the more the pet was outside and not in the house, the healthier the child.
What does this mean? We have become frantic about “germs” in our society. Ads for antibiotic soaps are all over the place. We don’t wear our outside shoes in the house in order not to drag in “dirt” from outside. (Some people like to distinguish the outside from the sanctuary of their home; this is a different concept.) We carry gels and creams to disinfect our hands many times per day. We tell our children not to let the dog lick them on their face. “Don’t kiss the dog on his lips.”
Yet the animals bring us into contact with all of those GERMS outside. And what happens? Our immune system rises to the occasion to protect us. From infancy! My interpretation is that this is confirmation of how amazing and wonderful our bodies are, how strong we can be, and how love and caring for other creatures (teaching this to our children through our pets) supports our own health and well-being. As I have said many times, humans have been around for at least hundreds of thousands of years. We must have very adaptive systems to have survived that long.
How do we keep us healthy so that we don’t have to be so afraid of all we contact when we step outside of our homes each day? Good diet, exercise, sleep, supplementation, and supportive social contacts. I have had the pleasure since childhood of experiencing those wonderful, loving dog licks. And now we have scientific evidence of another of their valuable gifts to us.