Objectives: To investigate the effect of dog and cat contacts on the frequency of respiratory symptoms and infections during the first year of life.
Methods: In this birth cohort study, 397 children were followed up from pregnancy onward, and the frequency of respiratory symptoms and infections together with information about dog and cat contacts during the first year of life were reported by using weekly diaries and a questionnaire at the age of 1 year. All the children were born in eastern or middle Finland between September 2002 and May 2005.
Results: In multivariate analysis, children having dogs at home were healthier (ie, had fewer respiratory tract symptoms or infections) than children with no dog contacts (adjusted odds ratio, [aOR]: 1.31; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.13-1.52). Furthermore, children having dog contacts at home had less frequent otitis (aOR: 0.56; 95% CI: 0.38-0.81) and tended to need fewer courses of antibiotics (aOR: 0.71; 95% CI: 0.52-0.96) than children without such contacts. In univariate analysis, both the weekly amount of contact with dogs and cats and the average yearly amount of contact were associated with decreased respiratory infectious disease morbidity.
Conclusions: These results suggest that dog contacts may have a protective effect on respiratory tract infections during the first year of life. 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.