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Having a Pet Dog Reduces Risk for Childhood Atopic Dermatitis

July 25, 2013

Having a Pet Dog Reduces Risk for Childhood Atopic Dermatitis

  1. Mary Wu Chang, MD

This careful meta-analysis indicates that early exposure to dogs, but not cats, decreases risk for childhood atopic dermatitis by 25%.

  1. Mary Wu Chang, MD
Cody Chang May Help His Household Avoid Atopic Dermatitis
Cody Chang May Help His Household Avoid Atopic Dermatitis

The hygiene hypothesis was proposed in 1989 as a possible explanation for the rapidly increasing prevalence of atopic dermatitis (AD) and other allergic and autoimmune diseases in developed nations. This hypothesis posits that reduced exposure to infectious agents in early life alters immune system maturation. Findings on pet exposure and risk for (AD) in children are inconsistent. Therefore, researchers conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of pooled data from 21 birth cohort studies (26 publications) that examined exposure to dogs, cats, or other pets during infancy or childhood and AD during infancy and childhood.

The pooled relative risk of AD was significantly reduced for exposure versus no exposure to dogs (0.72, 15 studies) and exposure to pets overall (0.75, 11 studies), but not for exposure to cats (0.94, 13 studies). Studies were moderately heterogeneous. Mitigating factors included geographic heterogeneity (Europe, 14 studies; U.S., 3 studies; Oceania, 3 studies; and Japan, 1 study), undefined pet-keeping practices (degree of exposure), inability to adjust for pet-avoidance behavior of parents (e.g., because of a family history of allergy), presence or absence of smoking, and education and income.

Comment

The conflicting results regarding a link between pet exposure and childhood atopic diseases (allergic rhinitis, asthma, atopic dermatitis) probably stem from different methodologies in the individual studies and various meta-analyses. Furthermore, pet exposure appears to affect the risk for the three atopic diseases differently. This careful meta-analysis indicates that early exposure to dogs significantly reduces risk for childhood atopic dermatitis. Although the protective effect of dogs and pets overall is consistent with the hygiene hypothesis, the lack of a protective effect from cat exposure indicates that the association is complex.

  • Disclosures for Mary Wu Chang, MD at time of publication Consultant / Advisory board Valeant Speaker’s bureau Galderma

Citation(s):

Reader Comments (5)

ABDELAZIZ MAAOUNI Physician, Internal Medicine, University hospital

Interesting in one condition pet must be quiet clean and well trained

Katherine Medical Student, Other, Student

Ok so I have read this before and also have read that having a pet around children reduces their chance of being asthmatic as well. I grew up with dogs since day 1. I am 22 years old and have not lived a single day of my life without having atleast 1 dog and as many as 6 dogs. I have had eczema as a baby and it has only gotten worse as an adult. Age ten I had an allergy test done and I was allergic to cars but not to dogs. However age 20 I needed to have the tests done again and these tests now showed that I am allergic to dogs. That this was the cause for my severe eczema.

fehmida zahabi MD Physician, Rheumatology, private practice suburban

enjoy the format

john menchaca md Physician, Pediatrics/Adolescent Medicine, private office

This will put the young children in another risk--- dog bites when the children may do unexpected handling of the dog and the dog respond and bite the youngster.

JEAN HAWKINS Physician, Pulmonary Medicine

interesting as we see more asthma

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