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Furry pets could lower obesity, allergy risk for infants, study finds

Posted April 14

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Need another reason to get a pet?

Infants could have a lower risk of obesity and allergic disease if they are exposed early in their lives to a furry household pet, according to a study published last week.

The study, conducted by the University of Alberta in Canada and published in the journal Microbiome, looked at the bacteria present in the guts of babies. More than half of the 746 mothers and infants studied were exposed to at least one furry pet—70 percent of the pets were dogs—before or after giving birth.

The theory behind the study was that exposure to dirt and bacteria early in life can create early immunity to certain ailments, according to the paper's author, Anita Kozyrskyj.

Researchers concluded that exposure to pets "increased the number of two bacteria, Ruminococcus and Oscillospira," which have been associated with a lower risk of obesity and allergies.

“The abundance of these two bacteria were increased twofold when there was a pet in the house,” Kozyrskyj said in a statement.

Despite the study's conclusion, Kozyrskyj said more research is needed to link the pet-related bacteria changes with health outcomes of infants.

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