If you have a dog or cat in your home, it distinctly alters the ecology of bacteria found there. In fact, 1 study found having a dog significantly elevated 56 classes of bacterial species while having a cat increased 24.
- Dogs have been called “the new probiotic” because they expose humans to a diverse array of dog-borne microbes, which may influence immune health
- Distinct differences were found in the innate immune response of Amish children raised around farm animals compared to Hutterite children raised away from them
- A Y 2020 study that compared the human gut microbiomes of pet owners with non-pet owners found significant differences in OTUs (operational taxonomic units), which are used to classify groups of closely related bacteria
- Another way pets, both dogs and cats influence immune markers is via their role as stress relievers, as chronic stress harms the human immune function.
Pets influence immune markers from lowering blood pressure response to mental stress to increasing levels of the stress-relieving “love hormone” oxytocin, by keeping stress to a minimum your immune health benefits.
“Chronic psychological stress is well known to damage our immune function, compromising our ability to fight off infections while increasing inflammation,” Dr. Austin Perlmutter wrote in Psychology Today.
“Pets may be able to help ward off this destructive effect by dampening stress through companionship and the facilitation of social connection with others.”
Researchers with the Indiana University School of Medicine found that just 5 mins of interaction with a therapy dog helps lower cortisol levels, a measure of stress, in physicians and nurses working in an ER, and interacting with your pet at home may do so too.
From lowering stress to supporting the health of your gut microbiome and providing beneficial bacteria exposures to prime your immune system against asthma and allergies, the ways pets affect immune function are complex and varied. And now researchers are working to shed more light on this important beneficial synergy between humans and their pets.
Have a healthy weekend, Keep the Faith!