Guest Author: Lola Lipson writes on Canine-American topics.
She has published two articles in her own name in the Chicago Tribune, her favorite paper.
“Are Pets the New Probiotic?,” asks the New York Times.
Yes, they answer.
Their basic point:
Dogs expose their owners to all kinds of germs and yucky stuff, and, in the process, force our immune systems to bulk up to deal with them.
That can be very good for kids.
Scientists are paying increasing attention to the “indoor microbiome,” the billions of bacteria, viruses and fungi that we share our homes and offices with. But not all those micro-organisms are bad for us, experts note. And exposure to a rich array of indoor germs may actually be salutary, helping stave off a variety of illnesses.
So there is growing concern that, in our anxiety to banish bacteria from our indoor world, we have become too clean for our own good. We run the risk of scrubbing, disinfecting, vacuuming and filtering out the fortifying mix of microscopic creatures that our immune system needs to develop properly. –New York Times
Enter the dog.
There are suggestive results from “natural experiments,” comparing different groups of children–some exposed to animals, others not.
Pets, and dogs especially, add a lot to the diversity of the indoor microbiome. Research has shown that dog ownership raised the levels of 56 different classes of bacterial species in the indoor environment, while naturally more fastidious cats boosted only 24 categories. –New York Times
Comment: This finding should not be surprising.
One of the basic insights of recent macro-histories is that Europeans and Asians developed resistance to diseases because of their exposure to horses, cattle, oxen and other large, domesticated animals. Latin Americans, whose only large animals were llamas, lacked such resistance.
Presumably, Europeans and Asians not only developed some disease resistance during an individual’s lifetime, their populations evolved over generations to favor those with better resistance, who could live to reproduce (Darwinian selection effects).
The suggestion of these studies–and it is still not proven–is that we can also degrade these resistance systems by living in “clean bubbles,” especially when young.
These health effects are just a bonus, though. The main thing, as all us dogs know, is that every kid deserves one.
- The opinions in this post are those of the guest author. She and ZipDialog welcome your response.
- She wishes to thank her owner, Charles Lipson, for assistance with typing. Also with food, water, and treats.