I always knew it, but new research has just confirmed it - having a dog keeps you healthy.


In a new study from researchers at Kuopio University Hospital in Finland, results confirmed that babies who lived with a dog, or to a lesser extent a cat, were healthier than babies with no exposure to these family pets.


For the study, researchers evaluated 397 infants who were born at their hospital between September 2002 and May 2005 for their first year.  Parents were asked to fill out weekly diaries starting when the child was nine weeks old that tracked information on their babies' health as well as their exposure to cats and dogs.


Thirty-five percent of the babies in the study spent the majority of their first year with a pet dog and 24 percent with a pet cat.  These babies had fewer ear infections, coughs or runny noses and were also less likely to need antibiotics than infants in pet-free homes. The researchers found that contact with dogs, more than cats, was tied to fewer weeks of sickness for babies.


Why are kids with dogs and cats healthier?  Theories abound.  The researchers for this study speculate that maybe all of the dirt that pets drag in when they come in and out is good for a baby's immune system. 


Could be.  I can certainly attest to the fact that my doggies bring in a bunch of dirt on their paws each day.  But I tend to think the extra smiles and giggles that a pet brings to a kid's life might be the real reason for that immune system boost.


What do you think?

The opinions expressed by MNN Bloggers and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of MNN.com. While we have reviewed their content to make sure it complies with our Terms and Conditions, MNN is not responsible for the accuracy of any of their information.