Having a dog around the house may help keep your baby from wheezing, a new study shows.

The study showed that infants who lived in a house with a pet dog experienced fewer wheezing episodes during the first year of life than those who lived in homes without dogs.

Researchers say the results support the so-called “hygiene hypothesis,” which holds that exposure to bacteria early in life reduces the risk of developing asthma (search) later in life.

Pet Dogs May Prevent Asthma

In the study, researchers measured levels of a basic component of dust known as endotoxin (search) in the homes of 367 1-year-old children in the Cincinnati area. Endotoxins are found in household dust and are a part of bacteria that play a role in triggering asthma in children and adults.

Pet dogs were in 40 percent of the homes evaluated. The study showed that these homes also had the highest levels of endotoxins.

But researchers found that wheezing among the infants was less common in the homes that had pet dogs.

Specifically, 18 percent of infants who lived with a dog experienced two or more wheezing episodes in the past 12 months compared with 26 percent of infants who didn’t have a pet dog at home.

The results of the study were presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy, and Immunology in San Antonio.

By Jennifer Warner, reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD

SOURCES: Kalra, H. “Dog Ownership is Associated With Less Wheezing Among High-Risk Infants During the First Year of Life,” presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy, and Immunology, March 18-22, 2005, San Antonio.