The benefits of having a dog at home

Do you have a dog that cheers you up and helps you out for a walk every day? Well, in addition, it would provide your family with protection against digestive disease. GĂ©raldine Zamansky, journalist for Health Magazine on France 5, explains why.

franceinfo: A Canadian study really shows that having a dog would reduce the risk of having this disease, Crohn’s disease?

Geraldine Zamansky: Yes, Williams Turpin, the main author of this study told me that it was a surprise. It is the result of the analysis of the responses of thousands of volunteers on their living conditions to see what could promote or, on the contrary, prevent the appearance of this Crohn’s disease. It is an inflammation of the intestine whose symptoms can really be very painful.

We already know that there is a part of genetic transmission but it does not explain everything. The Williams Turpin team therefore asked a lot of questions about the volunteers’ childhood. The size of their family, whether they grew up in town or on a farm, drinking water from a well. And, you said it, with or without a dog! For this question, the result is very clear. Growing up with a dog reduces the risk of having Crohn’s disease by 40%.

Almost half the risk, it’s impressive!

Yes really. And in addition to dogs, living your first 12 months in a family of at least 4 people is also protective. So Williams Turpin thinks there’s a connection to what’s called the hygienist hypothesis.

That is to say, growing up isolated in an environment that is too clean does not stimulate our immune defenses well. They do not learn to distinguish what is really dangerous from what is not. So they then trigger abnormally against bacteria that we need in the intestine, the famous microbiota. This can create chronic local inflammation, like Crohn’s disease.

And a dog would therefore be a good educator of immune defenses?

Absolutely, a power they don’t share with all pets. Williams Turpin clarified to me that they did not find the same result with cats. This may be because dogs, do out more generous licks to members of their “human family”. A true sharing of bacteria.

Without forgetting the caresses where the hands plunge into hairs that are not necessarily impeccable. And toddlers, it is well known, then easily put their hands in their mouths. So each of these moments would be valuable courses for the immune defenses. And if the effect is maximum in childhood, according to Williams Turpin it persists at all ages.

But be careful, a dog is a heavy responsibility. No adoption without long reflection, even for medical reasons!

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