Infants who live in households where there are pet dogs appear to be protected from infections, a new study has found.
Researchers at the Kuopio University Hospital in Finland found that babies who lived with a dog were less likely to need antibiotics and spent fewer weeks with coughs, runny noses and ear infections, reports Reuters.
Dr Eija Bergroth explained that the dirt and allergens brought into the home by dogs could help to boost a baby's immune system.
Cats were also found to offer some protection for infants, but to a lesser extent than dogs.
Dr T Bernard Kiane, chief of the paediatric pulmonary unit at MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston, was not involved in the study but commented on the findings.
He told the news provider: "In many ways, [the study is] saying, if you're exposed to a natural environment … your immune system recognises that you don't fight the normal allergens."
The study was published in the journal Pediatrics. It studied 397 infants who were born between 2002 and 2005 for the first year of their lives.