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Do Dog Owners Have Better Immune Systems? They Just Might

In this day in age, we’re always looking for healthier options. From diet to exercise, to a slew of prepackaged chemicals. No one lives forever, but if we can better ourselves so that we might have a chance at a few days more, isn’t it worth trying?



Is there something that we could do for ourselves so that we could have a boosted immune system and a better sense of self? Enter your dog on all fours with those misty puppy eyes.


The big question at hand is does being a dog owner provide you with a better immune system? Let’s chat about that.


Allergies

Allergies will always be the number one issue when it comes to pets. Dogs and cats especially. Since your pet leaves clumps of hair wherever it goes, most believe that it’s this same hair that people are allergic to. That simply isn’t the case. What people are actually allergic to is the dander (or shed skin) that breaks off or is collected with that hair that falls to the ground or is left behind on the couch.


Does owning a dog help or hinder those of us with allergies? Should we give up on the dream of companionship? No. Dogs are like music. If you don’t like one song, you can always change the station.


Even if you have pet allergies, there is a dog breed out there for you. A Cardigan Welsh Corgi may not be in the cards, but there are dogs that are relatively hypoallergenic just begging for you to bring them home for a lifetime of love.


Doodles are the perfect choice for those with pet allergies of all kinds. Just make sure you know certain details about your doodle, like what generation you’re discussing with your breeder. There will be a right poodle crossbreed that will fit your lifestyle and allergy profile so that you can live happily ever after with your canine companion.


Interesting side note: If you’re not a cat person -- and we don’t blame you -- you’re in luck. Of the 10% of the population of the world that are allergic to animals in general, 15% are allergic to cats alone.


For the children

Dogs get into a whole slew of things when they head outside to play or use the restroom. They track germs into our homes day after day. In a world built around washing hands and showering ourselves in hand sanitizer, there are certain benefits of the dirt and grime delivered to us by our pets.


A multitude of studies - from the National Center for Biotechnology Information to the American Academy of Pediatrics to The New England Journal of Medicine - all show that exposure to animals and everything that comes with them can reduce the risk of allergies and asthma later in life.


One proved that “fewer respiratory tract symptoms or infections” were detected in babies that were exposed to dogs early in their development, especially when compared with children the same age who were not exposed to dogs. This prevents an overly sensitive immune system later in life.


Think of all this less as immersion therapy and more so immunotherapy for the young. Germs aren’t great generally speaking, but when they’re used carefully to benefit our body’s defenses, this is a boost to our household’s microbiome. An overwhelming net positive all because we share our space with a loving and adoring dog.



Exercise

This may seem like it’s obvious to so many of us but exercise is vitally important. Some of us have jobs that station us behind a desk all day and keep us sedentary. But our puppies require a certain amount of attention and exercise. When we’re walking or playing with our dogs, we naturally are getting exercise ourselves.


While there is no single silver bullet for a better immune system, a great contribution to build onto is exercise. An article from Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School’s online journal, advises that this physical activity “improves cardiovascular health, lowers blood pressure, helps control body weight, and protects against a variety of diseases.”


The physical exertion that comes with having a dog on a day-to-day basis is a great building block in having a healthier immune system.


Emotional well being

Most people will admit that owning a dog or even just petting a dog brings them joy. Those same people feel physically better no matter the amount of time spent around their pets. There is an intrinsic connection between the two.


Northwestern Medicine has stated, “Happiness lowers your risk for cardiovascular disease, lowers your blood pressure, enables better sleep, improves your diet, allows you to maintain a normal body weight through regular exercise and reduces stress.”


While your happiness is important to your mental wellbeing, it’s also a driving force in actual physical change. Simply petting your pup releases immunoglobulin A (IgA). Sage Journals released a study in 2004 that outlines this IgA release can protect against respiratory, gastrointestinal and urinary tract issues.


Your dog can put a smile on your face while preventing severe complications with digestion, helping you literally breathe easier.


Dogs and COVID

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has advised that diseases like COVID can be spread from humans and pets and vice versa in situations with very close contact. The good news is that these instances are rare.


We like to think of our fur babies as a real and vital part of our family. In cases where you have contracted COVID, treat your dog exactly as you would any other family member and quarantine away from them. It won’t be easy for either of you in the short term, but all parties will be much better off, healthwise.



Not all great news

Even though there are so many benefits to having a dog that betters your immune system, there are certain people that might want to reconsider pet ownership. If you have a weak immune system - from cancer to organ transplants, from cirrhosis of the liver to HIV and AIDS - a dog might not be in the cards. Certain ailments can be passed from dog to owner that could definitely affect you adversely or worse…


Check with your doctor and your veterinarian if you have any type of immunocompromised system to see if you can handle dog ownership.


In the end…

While your pup won’t solve or help with all the immune system issues you might have, the science shows that in many cases a dog can help with your overall health.


Work with your vet and doctors to pick the right dog for you. You won’t be disappointed and neither will your physical & mental well-being.


Jenna and the JLDD Team

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