Pets at birth do not increase allergic disease in at-risk children

Clin Exp Allergy. 2012 Sep;42(9):1377-85. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2222.2012.04032.x.


Background: The literature is contradictory concerning pet exposure and risk of allergic disease in childhood especially among those with a family history of allergy.

Objective: To investigate the relationship between cat and dog exposure at birth and allergic outcomes over the first 12 years in a birth cohort selected for familial allergy.

Methods: A prospective birth cohort of 620 infants with a family history of allergic diseases was recruited. Data on pet keeping, family demographics and cord blood samples were collected at birth. Information on childhood wheeze, eczema and hay fever was collected 18 times in the first 2 years, at 7 years and at 12 years. Skin prick tests were conducted at 2, 7 and 12 years, and in parents. Regression analyses were used to investigate the relevant associations while adjusting for potential confounders.

Results: Exposure to cats or dogs at birth showed a moderate reduction in risk of wheeze (aOR = 0.76; 95% CI 0.53, 1.09) and hay fever (aOR = 0.71; 0.49, 1.02) after 7 years of age. Protective effects were stronger in children of non-sensitized fathers (aOR wheeze 0.55; 0.31, 0.98; aOR hay fever 0.33; 0.15, 0.77 on exposure to cats alone, or cats or dogs at birth). Pet keeping was not related to cord blood IgE or sensitization from 2 to 12 years.

Conclusions and clinical relevance: Pets at birth either decreased or had no effect on allergic disease up to age 12. We found no evidence that exposure to cats or dogs at birth increases the risk of allergic disease in high-risk children.

MeSH terms

  • Allergens / immunology
  • Animals
  • Asthma / epidemiology*
  • Asthma / immunology
  • Cats
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Dogs
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity, Immediate / epidemiology*
  • Hypersensitivity, Immediate / etiology
  • Hypersensitivity, Immediate / immunology
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Pets / immunology*
  • Respiratory Sounds / immunology
  • Rhinitis, Allergic, Seasonal / epidemiology*
  • Rhinitis, Allergic, Seasonal / immunology
  • Risk Factors


  • Allergens