The Huffington Post  |  By Amanda L. Chan Posted: 07/09/2012 11:49 pm EDT  |  Updated: 07/16/2013 2:37 pm EDT

Dogs and cats may not just provide your family with love and constant companionship — they could also have a powerful effect on the health of children early in life, according to a small new study.

New research in the journal Pediatrics shows that children who live in a home with a pet during their first year of life are also more likely to be healthier, compared with kids who don’t live in a pet-owning household.

“It’s more support in a growing body of evidence that exposure to pets early in life can stimulate the immune system to do a better job of fighting off infection,” Dr. Danielle Fisher, of St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., told the Los Angeles Times.

Specifically, kids who had a dog during their first year of life had 31 percent fewer respiratory tract infections than kids who didn’t live with a dog, researchers found.

Kids from dog-owning homes also had fewer ear infections — 44 percent fewer than kids from non dog-owning homes — and needed fewer antibiotics, researchers found.

Cats also seemed to have a beneficial effect on kids’ health, but not as strong as dogs, the researchers said.

“Our findings support the theory that during the first year of life, animal contacts are important, possibly leading to better resistance to infectious respiratory illnesses during childhood,” the European researchers wrote.

 

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Dr. Kadish is an unusual physician often referred to as a "doctor detective". His expertise is the evaluation and treatment of complex disorders, typically after other physicians have been stumped, is renowned. He provides care for all family members and has additional training in autistic spectrum disorders and chronic complex diseases.