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Scientists are investigating if living with a dog improves your microbiome

Stashed in: DOGS, Microbiome, Asthma

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It makes sense that dogs (or cats!) affect our microbiomes.

"We've co-evolved with dogs over the millennia, but nobody really understands what it is about this dog-human relationship that makes us feel good about being around dogs," lead researcher and anthropologist Kim Kelly, from the University of Arizona, said in a press release. "The question is: Has the relationship between dogs and humans gotten under the skin? And we believe it has."

The hypothesis is based on previous research that has found that dogs and their owners grow to share the same types of gut bacteria after living with each other for some time. Because a healthy population of micoorganisms is essential to physical and mental health, particularly in later life, the team wants to figure out if dogs are unwittingly helping their owners achieve this. 

There is also epidemiological work showing that when young children and infants are in frequent contact with dogs, they have a reduced risk of developing immune disorders, such as asthma and various types of common allergies, which could also be linked to microbe-sharing.

Kelly’s team are now looking for volunteers with dogs to be studied over a three-month period, during which time their gut bacteria, diet, physical activity levels, and immune function will be assessed. Each dog will have its physical activity levels and gut bacteria analysed at the same time. 

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