Early exposure to cats, dogs and farm animals and the risk of childhood asthma and allergy

Pediatr Allergy Immunol. 2020 Apr;31(3):265-272. doi: 10.1111/pai.13186. Epub 2020 Jan 11.


Background: Synergistic role of exposure to cats, dogs, and farm animals during infancy on the risk of childhood asthma and allergy remains unknown.

Objectives: To investigate independent and synergistic associations between exposure to indoor pets and farm animals during infancy and the risk of asthma and allergy by age 5.

Methods: We studied 3781 children participating in the Finnish Type 1 Diabetes Prediction and Prevention (DIPP) Nutrition Study. At age 5, a validated version of the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood questionnaire was administered to collect information on asthma and allergic disease, and exposure to indoor pets and farm animals during the first year of life. Allergen-specific IgE antibodies were analyzed from serum samples. Statistical analyses employed Cox proportional hazards and logistic regression.

Results: Having a dog in the house was inversely associated with the risk of asthma (HR 0.60; 95% CI, 0.38-0.96), allergic rhinitis (OR 0.72; 95% CI, 0.53-0.97), and atopic sensitization (OR 0.77; 95% CI, 0.63-0.96). Having a cat was associated with a decreased risk of atopic eczema (OR 0.68; 95% CI, 0.51-0.92). Farm animals were neither independently nor in synergy with indoor pets associated with the outcomes.

Conclusion: Having a dog or cat in the house during the first year of life may protect against childhood asthma and allergy. We did not find a synergistic association between cat, dog, and farm animal exposure on the risk of childhood asthma and allergy. Future research should identify specific causative exposures conferred by indoor pets and whether they could be recommended for allergy prevention.

Keywords: allergic rhinitis; asthma; atopic eczema; cats; children; dogs; farm animals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Allergens / immunology
  • Animals
  • Animals, Domestic*
  • Asthma / epidemiology*
  • Asthma / immunology
  • Cats
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / epidemiology
  • Dogs
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Female
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / epidemiology*
  • Hypersensitivity / immunology
  • Immunoglobulin E / blood
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Pets
  • Prospective Studies
  • Rhinitis, Allergic / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Allergens
  • Immunoglobulin E