How Owning a Dog Can Improve Your Child’s Immune System

By Kati Epps – March 1, 2023

Puppy kisses and baby giggles — they’re sweet and, better yet, surprisingly healthy for your household!

Owning a dog provides more than unconditional love and an in-house playmate for your children; did you know that pups also help boost your child’s immune system? Especially in the first year of a child’s life, owning a dog could be exactly what you need to prepare them for the outside world.

A study conducted in Sweden from 2001-2010 illustrated the reduction in asthma cases for children who were exposed to pets and those who were not. During their first year of life, those children who had dogs or were exposed to farm animals had a reduced risk of asthma compared to preschool-aged children (3-5 years) and school-age children (5-7 years) before the age of 6 by 13%.

Kids and dog.

Credit to Katerina Cotroneo

Another study from 2012 by the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology illustrated that dogs, in particular, decreased the likelihood of eczema in children they were exposed to in their first year of life.  

But how does it work? How is it that playing and loving on our pups builds our immune systems and helps to promote a healthier body? When dogs go outside to play, they walk through the dirt, sniff around their environments, roll in the grass and even chase other animals. The germs that they pick up while outside are then brought indoors on their paws, noses and fur. This may initially seem like a turn-off to bringing a dog around your family, but these germs are essential for building our microbiome to keep us healthy.

Another study from 2005 supported these findings and even went further to establish that it takes as little as 18 minutes of exposure to a dog to raise immunoglobulin A (IgA) levels in human saliva. This antibody helps to protect against infection. 

But that’s not all! The benefits of having a dog in your family are greater than just a boost for your child’s immune health. Some other benefits include the fact that:

Dogs are incredible companions. They provide unconditional love and friendship, which can ease anxiety and promote self-assurance. Children love a warm snuggle when watching a TV show, when they want comfort or if they are feeling disconnected from the world around them.

Dog licking baby.

Courtesy of Kati Epps

Dogs are great athletes. Taking dogs outside to play, going for a walk or hike, and throwing a ball for fetch all reduce stress, increase physical movement and promote outdoor recreation. Children love to be outside, play games like “tag” and roll around in the grass. 

Dogs are social. Many dogs love to meet new people and play with other dogs. This provides social and emotional confidence for children. When children learn to play kindly with their dogs, it rolls over into their ability to play kindly with their peers.

There is nothing sweeter than bringing home your new human baby and introducing them to your fur baby, and the dream only gets sweeter when you realize it’s actually benefitting your little one in healthy ways. 

Those years of crawling, toddling, then running after the family’s four-legged friends create lasting memories, encourage feelings of joy and promise security in the knowledge that your children are happy and healthy.

Here’s to some puppy love and healthy children!

About the Author

Kati Epps posing and smiling.

Coach Kati Epps is the founder of MyBody GX with a background in chemistry from Colorado State University, an ACE-certified personal trainer, a health coach and a nutrition specialist.


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