Those of us lucky enough to have had a childhood pet will always remember that magical relationship. Whether your cat was your partner in crime or your dog accompanied you on some epic woodland adventures, a furry friend is the best kind of friend for any child.
Not only is a pet useful for blaming on missing homework or a broken vase, there are also a host of proven health and social benefits.
Did you know that children who have a furry household pet are less likely to develop allergies and food intolerances? (1,2,3) This is likely due to the hygiene hypothesis which states that a 'too clean' environment in early childhood leads to a misdirection of the immune system. This misdirection leads to an immune reaction to inappropriate stimuli such as dust mites, pollen or types of food.
A study from Finland found that having a dog in the household during the first year of life has a protective effect against respiratory tract and ear infections and also reduces the number of antibiotic courses required (4). Cats in the household provide similar benefits, but to a lesser degree.
Pets have a positive impact on mental as well as physical health. Having a pet dog is associated with decreased childhood anxiety (5). Pets provide a source of non-judgemental unconditional love, children can confide in their pet as a way to release stress. Bonding with an animal that requires care encourages empathy in young children, providing them with the foundations for making great relationships with the people around them. Also, inviting your classmates round to meet your amazing cat or dog is a sure way of making new friends.
To maximise the health benefits and minimise potential risks of pet ownership a few precautions should be taken.
- Show your children how to handle pets with gentleness and respect.
- Be aware that your cat or dog could pass gastrointestinal disease-causing bacteria to a child, elderly or immune-compromised relative through their faeces. Pay particular attention if you feed your pet a raw food diet, keep children away from feeding bowls and ensure they wash their hands well after contact with the pet.
- Roundworms from cats and dogs can cause disease in humans, particularly children as they will play in areas that have been contaminated with faeces from untreated animals. To protect your family against roundworms pet faeces should be picked up as soon as possible and they should have an area to toilet away from children's play areas. Use Protect My Pet to ensure that your pet always receives the correct dose of their parasite prevention treatment exactly when it is due.
- Flea and tick treatment will prevent your pet from becoming a host for these parasites, and carrying them into your home. Whilst fleas will only cause irritating bites on humans, ticks can transmit more serious diseases such as Lyme’s disease. Protect My Pet provides monthly application of a flea and tick preventatives.
Family pets provide a huge source of fun and love. Children and adults alike benefit physically, mentally and emotionally from their companionship. At Protect My Pet we want you to enjoy your pet without having to worry about parasites harming your family or your pet. Our service provides hassle-free year round parasite protection, giving you more time to enjoy with your human and furry family members.
Written by Lindsay Rose MA VetMB CertAVP CertVBM MRCVS
- Early Exposure to Dogs and Farm Animals and the Risk of Childhood Asthma. Fall T, Lundholm C, Örtqvist AK, et al. JAMA Pediatr. 2015;169(11)
- Respiratory Tract Illnesses During the First Year of Life: Effect of Dog and Cat Contacts. Eija Bergroth, Sami Remes, Juha Pekkanen, Timo Kauppila, Gisela Büchele, Leea Keski-Nisula. Pediatrics Jul 2012, peds.2011-2825
- Infant gut microbiota and food sensitization: Associations in the first year of life . Azad, M.B.; Konya, T.; Guttman, D.S.; Field, C.J.; Sears, M.R.; HayGlass, K.T.; Mandhane, P.J.; Turvey, S.E.; Subbarao, P.; Becker, A.B.; et al.. Clin. Exp. Allergy 2015, 45, 632–643
- Respiratory tract illnesses during the first year of life: effect of dog and cat contacts. Bergroth, E., Remes, S., Pekkanen, J., Kauppila, T., Büchele, G. and Keski-Nisula, L., 2012. Pediatrics, pp.peds-2011
- Pet Dogs and Children's Health: Opportunities for Chronic Disease Prevention? Gadomski, Anne M et al. Preventing chronic disease vol. 12 E205 2015