Pets and brand new babies don’t sound like a sensible combination; after all, four-legged creatures aren’t exactly particular about personal hygiene, and newborns’ delicate ecosystems are surely not robust enough to withstand whatever the cat dragged in – and then the dog ate – and then…well…you know.
But according to a new study, infants born into a family with pets may actually develop protection against certain health issues.
Recent research from Canada has revealed that, thanks to the gut microbes (microorganisms) your furry friends shed, excrete, and salivate around your home, a baby exposed to such an environment may receive protection against allergies; and – surprisingly, obesity.
Researchers discovered that house-sharing with pets can significantly increase a baby’s production of two types of bacteria—Ruminococcus – which may be linked to decreasing childhood allergies, and Oscillospira, which may lower the risk of future obesity.
There’s only a small window of opportunity for bubs to reap these benefits, though; while still in-utero, or during the first three months postpartum.
“There’s definitely a critical window of time when gut immunity and microbes co-develop, and when disruptions to the process result in changes to gut immunity,” explains researcher Anita Kozyrskyj.
In the future, these findings could lead to pharmaceutical replication of the microbial benefits, but for now, you can chill out about the dog hair, Mum.