Growing up with dogs, especially female ones, may reduce the risk of asthma in children, recent research shows. But that isn’t all that’s new about man’s best friend: The same study found so-called “allergy-friendly” dog breeds did not reduce the risk of asthma.
Swedish researchers studied families who had a dog and a young child at home during a three-year period — more than 23,000 people in all. They parsed human health data and dog demographics that included breed, gender and size. They also concentrated on “hypoallergenic” dog breeds that don’t shed much or at all.
They then looked for links between the dogs’ characteristics and allergy and asthma diagnoses in children at the age of 6. After excluding other factors that could cause allergies and asthma, the researchers found that a dog’s gender can strongly influence asthma in children.
Children with only female dogs at home had a 16 percent lower risk of asthma than those raised with male dogs. That may be because certain dogs, especially unneutered males, release more allergens than those that are neutered or than female dogs, the researchers noted.
The total number of dogs at home also appears to be a factor: Children with at least two dogs had a 21 percent lower risk of asthma than those with one dog.
Owning an “allergy-friendly” breed of dog also wasn’t associated with lower asthma risk, they found. The American Kennel Club lists 19 breeds as being best for allergy sufferers, including the bichon frise, Afghan hound and giant schnauzer. While the researchers found no relation between “allergy-friendly” breeds and a lower risk of asthma, these dogs also did not raise the asthma risk.