Prenatal dog-keeping practices vary by race: speculations on implications for disparities in childhood health and disease

Ethn Dis. 2014 Winter;24(1):104-9.


Objective: There is consistent evidence demonstrating that pet-keeping, particularly of dogs, is beneficial to human health. We explored relationships between maternal race and prenatal dog-keeping, accounting for measures of socioeconomic status that could affect the choice of owning a pet, in a demographically diverse, unselected birth cohort.

Design: Self-reported data on mothers' race, socioeconomic characteristics and dog-keeping practices were obtained during prenatal interviews and analyzed cross-sectionally. Robust methods of covariate balancing via propensity score analysis were utilized to examine if race (Black vs White), independent of other participant traits, influenced prenatal dog-keeping.

Setting: A birth cohort study conducted in a health care system in metropolitan Detroit, Michigan between September 2003 and November 2007.

Participants: 1065 pregnant women (n=775 or 72.8% Black), between ages 21 and 45, receiving prenatal care.

Main outcome measures: Participant's self-report of race/ethnicity and prenatal dog-keeping, which was defined as her owning or caring for > or =1 dog for more than 1 week at her home since learning of her pregnancy, regardless of whether the dog was kept inside or outside of her home.

Results: In total, 294 women (27.6%) reported prenatal dog-keeping. Prenatal dog-keeping was significantly lower among Black women as compared to White women (20.9% vs 45.5%, P<.001), and remained significantly different even after propensity score analysis was applied.

Conclusion: Findings suggest that there are persistent racial differences in dog-keeping not fully explained by measures of socioeconomic status. Racial differences in prenatal dog-keeping may contribute to childhood health disparities.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Asthma / ethnology
  • Black or African American / statistics & numerical data*
  • Dogs
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / ethnology
  • Logistic Models
  • Michigan
  • Middle Aged
  • Mothers
  • Pets*
  • Pregnancy
  • Propensity Score
  • Social Class
  • White People / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult