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Creating a "dog in a pill" for prevention of allergies and obesity in kids seems possible

Harold Mandel's picture
Girl and dog

Researchers say that being exposed to pets may decrease allergies and obesity in children.


We often think of pets as being great companions for kids. This is true and dogs and other pets seem to generally be very good for the emotional development of children. It appears that pets may also help protect kids from allergies and obesity.

Allergies and obesity may be decreased with exposure to pets

The University of Alberta reports allergies and obesity may be decreased with exposure to pets. Researchers have demonstrated that the microbiome of the gut in kids may be altered in ways that boost the immune system from having a dog early during child development.

In a study by University of Alberta researchers babies who were from families which had pets had increased levels of microbes which have an association with decreased risks for allergies and obesity. In the study dogs were the pet of choice in 70 percent of the families.

There are fewer cases of asthma in kids who grow up with dogs

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Anita Kozyrskyj, who is a University of Alberta pediatric epidemiologist and one of the world’s leading researchers on microbes of the gut, and her associates lead this study. Gut microbes are microorganisms or bacteria which reside in the digestive tracts of people and animals. This work has evolved from research over two decades which has shown there are fewer cases of asthma in kids who grow up with dogs.

The theory behind this finding has been exposure of kids to dirt and bacteria from pets when they are young can result in the creation of immunity early in life. The dirt and bacteria could come from the fur and paws of a dog. It has not been clear if the immune developing effect comes directly from bacteria on the pet or from transfer by people via touching the pets.

Exposure to pets while in the womb or up to three months after being born has been associated with increases in two bacteria known as Ruminococcus and Oscillospira. There has been a link found between lower levels of childhood allegies and Ruminococcus and between childhood obesity and Oscillospira. There was a doubling of these bacteria when there was a pet in the home.

The concept of developing a “dog in a pill” as a tool of prevention for allergies and obesity seems possible

Kozyrskyj thinks the concept of developing a “dog in a pill” as a tool of prevention for allergies and obesity may someday be seen. In this scenario the pharmaceutical industry may attempt to create a supplement made from these microbiomes, similar to what has been done with probiotics.

This study has been published in the journal Microbiome. Researchers at University of Alberta have found that early life exposure to pets influences the gut microbiota in ways which has the capacity to lower risk for developing allergies and becoming obese. The abundance of two bacteria known as Ruminococcus and Oscillospira are increased in kids in families which have pets. These bacteria are negatively associated development of childhood atopy and obesity.

This is great news for pet lovers. Even if the "dog in a pill" concept is envisioned let's therefore hope this is seen as a supplement for actually having a pet. After all dogs and other pets really are great companions for kids and can help them develop well emotionally.