Dog Saves Child (with a twist)
Asthma. An often life long disease of inhalers, acute suffocation, ER visits, lost work hours, and even death. If there were some way to prevent this plague in your child, and it was easy and helped another soul or two at the same time, you’d want to know about it, right?
We live in a time when parents shield their children from exposure more than ever before, with unprecedented numbers of vaccinations, germ killing soaps and hand wipes, and limited access to play in the dirt or the great outdoors.
Yet, the rate of asthma has risen steadily since 1980.
Consider this: more germ exposure might just be the answer to prevent this dreadful disease sapping the life from your healthy child.
Wait. More Germ Exposure? A Good Thing?
What if exposure to germs is actually beneficial to kids? Specifically, those germs that Bowser carries in after cavorting outdoors?
It turns out this is very likely the case, according to a recently published study featured in the very main stream Wall Street Journal. While the study looked at mice, the researchers conclude, based partly on older studies, that exposure of kids to dogs who get outside is actually protective against those kids developing asthma!
More Dogs or Dog + Cat = Better Protection
An earlier study found that having two dogs in the house of the infant was much more protective than one. And the protection from dog exposure in the first year of life carried forward when testing was repeated at 6-7 years of age! And this study found no significant benefit from a single dog in the family, but a protective effect up till age 32 from having both a cat and dog in the household.
Romp and Wrestle, Inhale and Swallow Germs
The benefits are apparently tied to the gut flora, specifically the probiotics or “good guys” living in the intestines of the exposed kids. Dogs who got outside contributed more germs to the house’s dust, breathed and swallowed by the humans sharing quarters with the dogs. It was this rich blend of gut flora that brought immune system balance to the dog-exposed children vs those who lived in more “sterile” environments.
I remember well, growing up with dogs, the rough and tumble times I had on the living room carpet: tug of war, wrestling, chase, and ferocious sounding mock fights. Sometimes my arms were scratched and red streaked from the grazing of teeth I’d received! It was all in good spirits and the dogs and I loved these interactions, but little did I know I was getting my immune system primed to resist allergies and asthma later on! Nice. Thanks Stash, Loopy, Jake, and Jackson!
Not surprisingly, kids growing up on farms also have a very much lowered risk of allergies and asthma. Instead of only dogs and cats, these kids are exposed to multiple species of livestock and a much more diverse bacterial flora. Ever muck out a barn stall?
Rescue a Pet, Save A Child from Asthma
Imagine a win-win for a moment. Thousands of dogs and cats end up in pounds every year, many of them destined to be euthanized when no one claims them. If you don’t have pets, but want to get one or two as a means of increasing your child’s chances of avoiding asthma, consider getting an abandoned dog or cat and giving them a caring home. You’ll have to be committed to raising a healthy vital animal, but that’s a reward unto itself.
Building Immunity Through Exposure
The take away from this is that, rather than sheltering ourselves or especially our children from exposure to the big, bad germs in the world, it makes far more sense to get a healthy dose of a wide variety of “micro wilderness.”
I advise new puppy owners to do just this, in fact. When I have the good graces to start with an unvaccinated pup in my practice, in addition to doing a good physical exam, I also send the guardian home with some immune boosting tools and tell them to get the pup out on the trails and visiting the dog parks.
Why? Much like the “chicken pox parties” where parents get their kids exposed to the sick child down the block and so build immunity to the pox virus, these naïve immune systems need to be stimulated and exposed in order to start appropriately responding to the germs of the real world.
The boy is the bubble was an exception, not a model to follow for the average human or pup.
Tools to Make Exposure Safe
The pups in my homeopathic vet practice are sent on this exposure mission with a few key tools to be sure they flourish in the face of the germs they encounter.
- A balanced raw diet. Whether made at home or shipped to your door ready made, this food provides the nutritional underpinnings to allow the immune system to do its job of building immunity.
- Homeopathic nosodes. Remedies specifically targeting the two viruses that can be fatal to a pup: parvo and distemper. Nosodes have a long history of “putting a finger in the dike” for specific germs, and have worked well in my practice and in the hands of many of my homeopathic vet colleagues. We often only use them till 9 months of age, though they can start while the pup is still suckling the dam.
- Transfer factors. With research beginning in humans in the ‘50s, these tiny immune messengers known as lymphokines confer immune intelligence to all species, and the one I use for puppies is called Transfer Factor Canine Complete, which I mention on my Vital Puppy page.
This exposure approach scares some guardians, most usually the ones who have germophobia themselves, and use all the germ killing products freely. But I’ve seen it work over and over again.
[Recently the FDA cautioned against the use of these germicidal products, which commonly contain triclosan. Why? Their concern was hormonal disregulation in the people and building resistance in the germ populations that we must live with.]
Kids! Dogs! Get Outside!
So, get those kids and dogs and cats together, and get them outside and exposed to the real world, especially in the first year of life. Puppies, kittens and young children will build immunity by so doing, and the research is behind you, Mom.
p.s. this resistance to asthma is all based on a rich blend of healthy gut flora, according to the data. And we now know that there are more of these probiotic bacterial cells in us than our own native cells.
I hope that makes you think twice about using antibiotics without clear indications or serious illness. For more thoughts on that, see these earlier posts: