Furry Pets and the Newly Discovered Health Benefits for Humans

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I’m a huge advocate of pets of all kinds for human health and companionship!

We’ve had a myriad of pets over the years, as we love and rescue animals: the typical dogs and cats, plus goats, llama, horse, donkey, frogs, toads, lizards, turtle, ferrets, rats, mice, snakes, rooster, and most recently a duck couple has adopted us!

Today I want to share with you some rather unfamiliar, newly discovered health benefits of furry pets!

Old Facts:

It’s common knowledge that pets bring us joy and happiness and alleviate loneliness and depression.

They improve our overall health and general well-being. They even improve blood pressure!

And if you have a serious/chronic illness, they are a wonderful distraction from the burden of health issues. They raise our spirits! They reduce stress!

New Discoveries:

  • Decreased risk of heart attack
  • Reduced likelihood of allergies
  • Enhanced social skills
  • Reduced likelyhood of suicide for those at risk

Historically, the popular medical belief was that furry pets might lead to the development of allergies, but new data from population-based studies dispute this line of thinking.

Studies now show that furry pets actually reduce the development of allergies. A new study from the University of Turko in Finland indicates that exposure to furry animals leads to changes in the human gut flora and immune system to block allergies.

Background Data:
Allergic diseases among urban populations worldwide has increased dramatically over recent years. Reduced exposure to nature may be responsible.

Several studies have shown that an important factor is exposure to furry animals, including early-life contacts with livestock, which has been reported to be protective against asthma and allergies.

While most researchers have focused on the direct immune response to this exposure, there may be another factor – increased exposure to microbial diversity and its influence on the human microbiome.

New Data:
To explore the relationship to furry pet exposure and the development of allergic diseases like asthma, researchers in Finland examined the gut flora of children enrolled in an ongoing randomized placebo-controlled study in children with a family history of asthma, eczema, hayfever, or food allergy.

The researchers identified infants of families having at least 1 furry ‘indoor‘ pet during pregnancy and the first year of life. Infants from families without pets were selected as controls in consecutive order of recruitment. To determine the development of allergies, skin prick tests (SPTs) were carried out at the age of 6 months. The antigens tested by SPT included cow’s milk, egg white, wheat and rice flour, cod, soy bean, birch, 6 grasses, cat, dog, dust mite, latex, potato, carrot, and banana. The study team also collected fecal samples from diapers when the babies were one month of age. One of the tests performed was DNA analysis for two types of Bifidobacteria that are found specifically in furry animals gastrointestinal tracts: B. thermophilum and B. pseudolongum. The presence of these bacteria was associated with exposure to a dog, cat, or rabbit as a pet.

The results from the analysis indicated that pet exposure starting early and throughout life can have an impact on the composition of the human microbiome in a way that reduces the risk of allergic diseases.

Conclusion from the study:
Furry animals have a positive impact on gut flora (microbiome) which plays a huge role in the proper development and health of the immune system and can prevent the development of allergies.

“Maybe just perhaps, some of the benefits being attributed to therapy dogs and horses in kids on the autism spectrum as well as in other situations may be partly due to influencing the microbiome in a positive way.”
~ Dr. Michael Murray

Furry pets do belong in your home, not just outside, if you want the health benefits they provide for you and your family!

If you don’t have a furry pet in your home, adopt/rescue one ♥️

References:
Nermes M, Endo A, Aarnio J, Salminen S, Isolauri E. Furry pets modulate gut microbiota composition in infants at risk for allergic disease. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2015 Sep 3. pii: S0091-6749(15)01036-2.
Dr. Michael Murray, The Doctors Show

Author: cconlowolsen

I’m a mom with a background in nutrition, teaching, child and human development, photography, health, travel, outdoors, animal rescue, mentoring, business ownership, cooking, navigating traditional health care and alternative health care, writing, and more. I have a chronic illness I’ve been managing for decades while raising a family, homeschooling my kids and enjoying life to the fullest. I want to share my experiences both good and bad, to help others!

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