Effect of Exposure to Cats and Dogs on the Risk of Asthma and Allergic Rhinitis: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

Am J Rhinol Allergy. 2020 Sep;34(5):703-714. doi: 10.1177/1945892420932487. Epub 2020 Jun 20.


Background: Controversies persist regarding whether exposure to cat or dog increases the risk of asthma and allergic rhinitis.

Objective: This meta-analysis aimed to assess the associations between exposure to cats or dogs and the development of asthma and allergic rhinitis.

Methods: A systematic review was performed to identify case-control and cohort studies before May 2019, evaluating the association between exposure to cats and dogs and the risk of asthma and rhinitis. The risk of bias was assessed using the Newcastle-Ottawa Scale. The odds ratios (ORs) and risk ratios (RRs) were pooled for case-control and cohort studies, respectively. Subgroup analyses were performed on prespecified study-level characteristics.

Results: The meta-analysis of 34 cohort studies showed a protective role of exposure to cats [RR: 0.88, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.77-0.99] or dogs (RR: 0.85, 95% CI: 0.73-0.97) in the development of asthma. The subgroup analysis of birth cohort (RR: 0.74, 95% CI: 0.56-0.93) and children population (RR: 0.83, 95% CI: 0.70-0.96) also suggested a favorable role of exposure to dogs in the development of asthma. Pooled evidence from 13 case-control studies indicated no significant impact of cats (OR: 1.66, 95% CI: 0.39-2.94) and dogs (OR: 1.22, 95% CI: 0.92-1.52) on the development of asthma. A pooled analysis of five cohort studies showed a favorable effect of exposure to cats (RR: 0.60, 95% CI: 0.33-0.86) or dogs (RR: 0.68, 95% CI 0.44-0.90) on the development of allergic rhinitis.

Conclusion: The findings indicated a protective effect of exposure to cats and dogs, especially ownership, on the development of asthma and allergic rhinitis.

Keywords: allergic; association; asthma; cat; dog; exposure; meta-analysis; rhinitis; risk; systematic review.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Allergens
  • Animals
  • Asthma*
  • Cats
  • Cohort Studies
  • Dogs
  • Humans
  • Odds Ratio
  • Rhinitis, Allergic*


  • Allergens