When we think about dogs, the last thing we consider is that they might help with allergies. After all, pets are some of the most common and severe producers of allergens out there. However, it has recently come to light that owning a pet can also alleviate allergy symptoms and lessen bothersome allergic episodes. This information could mean relief for thousands of dog lovers all over the world.
A New Study
University of Arizona researchers are creating a new study intended to look at the bacteria found in dog saliva and on the skin of dogs can have an effect on allergies. It is believed that such bacteria can reduce allergic symptoms such as hives, sneezing, itching and watery eyes. The study will examine whether the bacteria ecosystem of a dog can aid the human immune system.
The study is born out of findings that those infants who are born into families that own dogs have fewer instances of allergies and asthma than others. Taking these findings into account, the group seeks to find if there is a direct correspondence.
The study is set to last for twelve weeks and will pair people between 50 and 60 years of age with dogs. Throughout the course of the program, researchers would monitor the immune response of subjects to see if the dog’s presence affects it in any way.
The theory is that the microbiome of the dog will affect that of the human, and thus alter the human immune response. If this study is successful, another follow up study would explore the effects of canine bacteria on children with allergies.
Probiotic by Proximity
In theory, the presence of the dog can act as a sort of probiotic for humans, building healthy colonies of bacteria in dog owners. Allergies, asthma and other immune diseases have been on the rise in the Western world over the past few decades, and researchers are keen to know why.
It is believed by some that reduced exposure to bacteria that were once deemed harmless has caused human microbiomes to decrease. The thought is that dogs do not suffer from this depletion, and their presence can restore the balance in humans by transferring bacteria from dog to owner.
Building a Colony
As lead researcher Dr. Charles Raison of the University of Arizona College of Medicine points out, human beings are not really a single organism, but are complex structures built of colonies of smaller organisms, like cells, viruses and bacteria. We exist in a delicate balance of these microbes and when they are out of balance, it can affect immune health.
Dogs are a prime candidate to restore this balance, because they spread their bacteria around more than do cats. Dogs explore the world with their mouth, licking to show affection and curiosity. As they engage in this practice, their bacteria gets transferred from dog to person.
If you have any thoughts on these findings and the study to follow, we would be interested to hear what you have to say. Drop us a comment below.