Dogs, cats make for healthy babies, says study. Bring on the fur.

A new study says that young babies living with dogs and cats tend to be healthier than those without four-legged friends.  What a relief.

Igor Yakunin/AP
Living with dogs and cats may make babies healthier, says a new study. Here, Yekaterina Khodakova holding her 18-month-old son Gleb watches two Siberian tiger cubs and Shar Pei puppy playing in her house in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. Khodakova's Shar Pei dog Cleopatra breastfeeds the tiger cubs because their mother refused to feed them after they were born in late May in a small zoo.

This is the most gratifying study I’ve seen in a while: Researchers have determined that babies who grow up with dogs and cats (but especially dogs) tend to be healthier than their non-pet owning compatriots.

The study, which was published earlier this week in the journal “Pediatrics,” followed 397 children in eastern or middle Finland through the first year of life, and asked parents to fill out weekly diaries both about the babies’ contacts with furry friends and their health. The parents also filled out a questionnaire when the kids were one year old.

The verdict: dogs are awesome.  Cats are pretty cool, too. (OK, that’s not really the scientific conclusion, but you get the point.)

More specifically, the researchers found that children with dogs inside the house were the least likely group to report various sorts of illness or use of antibiotic drugs, and the group that spent the greatest percentage of time in the “healthy” category.
Contact with indoor cats were also helpful, but the dog-owning babies were the ones who seemed to reap the most health benefits.

The scientists don’t know exactly why the animals seem to be so beneficial. But – and I love this – they theorize that the general funk related to dogs (again, not the scientific wording, but dog owners out there know what I mean) is actually pretty helpful.

That’s right – the fur, the drool, the gunk, even the dirt on muddy paws, is a veritable Apple-A-Day, the experts say.

This makes me feel so much better.

Because, well, as soon as one enters our house one finds that it is home to not only a whirlwind of a toddler, but to some four-legged friends. One of whom is a Labrador retriever – aka the king of the canine shedders.  A Black Lab, I will add, who cannot understand why, with the addition of Husband and Baby M to his life, the rules against couch surfing have become a bit stricter.

(The dog has simply learned that he should wait until we leave the room to get comfy on the white couch. Husband, who is not a dog person, although has many other wonderful qualities, does not appreciate this.)

I’ll admit, the general fur-coated status of my home has, in the past, had me feeling a bit inadequate. Even, at times, embarrassed. 

But now I can have pride and the general animal kingdom environment. I can even feel a bit superior.

After all, good mommies encourage dog funk. The experts say so.

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