Fido the dog and Ginger the cat need not worry about being replaced by a new baby — in fact, they could be helping parents raise healthier children.
A new study finds that children who lived with dogs or cats during their first year of life got sick less frequently than kids from pet-free zones. The study, published in Monday's edition of the journal Pediatrics, provides fresh evidence for the counterintuitive notion that an overly clean environment may not be ideal for babies.
Sharing a home with a pet may be an early form of cross-training for the body's defense systems. Previous research has shown that owning a cat or dog was associated with less risk of gastroenteritis in young children.
Studies also suggest that the dirt — and microbes — brought indoors by pets could bolster the communities of helpful bacteria, yeast and other microscopic creatures that live in a developing child's body.