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Rachel Sylvester
Assistant Editor, The Knot

New Reason to Get a Dog: Baby May Get Sick Less

PUBLISHED ON 07/10/2012

Do you tote antibacterial wipes in your diaper bag? A new study may convince you to swap out the sanitizer for a house pet.

In the Finnish study, published in the journal  Pediatrics, researchers studied nearly 400 babies from birth throughout their first year. They focused on the respiratory health of the infants in relation to their contact with cats and dogs. Turns out, Fido can offer health benefits.

Not only did the babies who live with dogs have fewer instances of respiratory tract symptoms and infections than babies without pets did, but they also needed fewer courses of antibiotics and experienced less ear infections and runny noses. Cats weren't proven to significantly affect the babies' health.

“These results suggest that dog contacts may have a protective effect on respiratory tract infections during the first year of life,” wrote researcher Eija Bergroth of Kuopio University Hospital in Finland, in the study's conclusion.

It's not the pets themselves that help baby's health — it's the dirt and grime they track around the house (yup, a little messiness is good for your kid!). Researchers suggest that children exposed to germs develop stronger immune systems, making them better equipped to defend against bacteria and respiratory infections.

Do you have a dog or cat? Do you think it's beneficial to your baby to have a pet?

PHOTO: The Bump