In their Bexhill backyard with Lucy, a four-year- old kelpie cross, are Lucas Flood, 8, and back from left, Eden, 3, Riley, 5 and Zachary, 7.
In their Bexhill backyard with Lucy, a four-year- old kelpie cross, are Lucas Flood, 8, and back from left, Eden, 3, Riley, 5 and Zachary, 7. Jacklyn Wagner

Dogs good for kids' immune systems

HAVING a dog in the home can protect kids against infections and respiratory problems, new research has found.

Out of 400 children involved in a recent European study, those with pet dogs were found to be one-third less likely to get sick.

The research shows dogs exposed children to low levels of germs and subsequently built up their immune systems.

Cats were also found to be good for kids' immune systems but not to the extent of their canine counterparts.

"A dog who is constantly around a child is like a continuous vaccination," Dogs NSW spokesman Dr Peter Higgins said.

Bexhill mother of four Kim Flood said she has seen first-hand the health benefits of having a pet dog.

"One of my boys, Lucas, gets mild asthma and gets allergies," she said.

When Lucas was two, the Floods bought a labrador-cross-kelpie called Lucy.

"Lucas's allergies were quite bad but since we've had Lucy, they're a lot better."

Ms Flood claimed animals also provided children with other health benefits.

"It gets the kids outside - we don't spend time playing computer games all the time - and they love being with the animals," she said.

The study found babies in their first year benefited the most from a pet dog because their immune systems were in the earliest stages of development.

However, the study did not conclude if positive effects lasted into adulthood.

"The question is: do we have one dog as a vaccination in childhood or do we need booster shots by having a dog as we grow older?"



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