Dogs, Not Cats, Increase Risk of Some Children's Asthma

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Have you been wondering if having animals in your house might make your kids more susceptible to asthma? Recent research suggests that the answer is yes -- but only with dogs and only in certain cases.

Results of a new study indicate that in families with a higher risk of developing asthma, a canine presence may elevate that risk in children, reports Reuters. The study, led by researcher Dr. Chris Carlsten of Vancouver General Hospital in British Columbia, Canada, showed a three-fold increase in the risk of asthma for children who were exposed to high levels of dog allergen. Interestingly, neither cat nor dust-mite exposure seemed to increase a child's asthma risk.

All of the subjects had an increased risk of asthma due to family history but half of the group was placed on a special intervention program that began when the mothers were pregnant. Those mothers had to breastfeed for at least four months and then limit exposure to dust mites, pets and tobacco smoke, according to Reuters. Carlsten believes that the reason why those exposed to dogs had a higher level of asthma may be due to the high levels of endotoxin on dogs, a microorganism known to cause inflammation in the lungs. The study did not look at families with an average risk of asthma so these findings may not apply to those subjects.

So should you avoid bringing home a puppy? Carlsten doesn't believe the study's findings, which were reported in Pediatric Allergy and Immunology, are definitive enough to make that recommendation. Instead, families should base the decision on their desire to have a pet.

What do you think? Is having a dog worth the possibility of increasing your child's risk of asthma? Even slightly?

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