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Pet dogs guard against Crohn’s disease

Child and dog

According to a study by the University of Toronto, children who grow up with pet dogs are less likely to develop Crohn’s disease in later life. William Turpin, PhD, the study’s senior author and research associate with Mount Sinai Hospital and the University of Toronto said:

“Our study seems to add to others that have explored the ‘hygiene hypothesis’ which suggests that the lack of exposure to microbes early in life may lead to lack of immune regulation toward environmental microbes.”

Child and dog

Child and dog. Image by Alain Audet from Pixabay

I have heard that kind of remark by scientist before. Years ago, there was quite a big discussion about babies and toddlers sleeping with cats and dogs. Some people thought it was bad for them while others thought it benefited the toddler. As research progressed, we discovered that it benefits toddlers to be around dogs and cats provided they are instructed on how to interact with them.

RELATED: Cat snuggles up to baby: beautiful and mutually beneficial (supported by science).

It appears that a child can strengthen their immune system when they are exposed to pathogens on companion animals. This early exposure helps to build up the immune system. I’ve always felt that and it appears that this study supports my thinking.

The researchers used an environmental questionnaire to collect information from nearly 4,300 ‘first-degree’ relatives of people with Crohn’s disease. The participants were enrolled in the Crohn’s and Colitis Canada Genetic, Environmental, and Microbial (CCC-GEM) project.

They concluded that exposure to dogs, particularly between the ages of 5-15 ensured that the children developed a strong gut lining. They found that cats did not have the same powers to benefit children but this might have been because “dog owners get outside more often with their pets”. It may simply be a case of children being in close contact with dogs more often than they are with cats.

RELATED: Cats Benefit the Health of Children.

More specifically, the study found that exposure to dogs help to create “healthy gut permeability and balance between the microbes in the gut and the body’s immune system, all of which might help protect against Crohn’s disease”. The quote comes from the website News Medical Life Sciences.

Crohn’s disease is a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) which affects around half a million people in America. Often it develops in young adults and people who smoke. It appears to run in families because those with close family members (first-degree) who have IBD are prone to contract it. The symptoms include weight loss, abdominal pain and diarrhoea. Treatments include dietary modifications, medication and surgery.

Below are some pages on working dogs.