Not everyone can live on a farm, where living in close proximity with the animals is found to improve Children’s Immune Systems to fight against asthma and other allergies. However, it turns out the family dog can pretty much have the same effect.

Farm animals and kids are a good combination

The New England Journal of Medicine has recently published a study, conducted on children living on farms. The study has shown the clear benefits of children being exposed to farm animals and Dogs in the first three months of their lives. Particularly children living in the Amish community were discovered to be less likely to develop asthma as compared to others who grew up on more industrialized farms and kept away from the animals.

Dogs are a great alternative to farm animals and are highly beneficial according to the study. Much more so than cats and other household pets. The Director of the Microbiome Center at the University of Chicago, Dr. Jack Gilbert recently spoke to the New York Times about the study.

He explained that dogs are particularly helpful inside homes by adding “good” bacteria, as they are outdoors more often than other pets. According to another study run along the same theme, having a dog increased levels of 56 classes of bacterial species in the home, while cats, being a bit more fastidious over their own cleanliness and not playing outside so much, only boosted 24 categories.

Bacteria tracked in by the family dog

As all dog owners know, their pets bring all sorts of substances into the home, including animal feces and other types of dirt from the sidewalks outside. They can also bring in salmonella and other human diseases, but reportedly just a simple hand wash can prevent those problems.

Getting used to the bacteria brought into the home is definitely more beneficial than harmful. According to the New York Times article we are tending to become too clean for our own health, by constantly vacuuming, disinfecting and filtering all the microscopic creatures that our immune systems actually need to develop properly.

Gilbert told The Independent that researchers are performing a lot of work to find out which organisms do actually help to improve children’s immune systems and are working on producing probiotics to get the same benefit. However, dogs, adorable as they are, can be a much easier fix.

Netzin Steklis of the University of Arizona has said humans and dogs have been interacting for around 40,000 years, but researchers are only now finding how living with canines can impact our health for the better. Gilbert says there is also still the question of whether the strengthening of a child’s immune system through early exposure to pets can be maintained through life. Researchers are, however, continuing to look into that aspect.