A family dog can reduce a child’s asthma risk by as much as 15% according to a comprehensive new study.

The results support the so-called “hygiene hypothesis” that supposes people who live in ‘too clean’ conditions are more likely to have a higher risk of allergies.

The data of 1 million children born in Sweden between 2001 and 2010 was analysed. Sweden is important for this study as it’s a country where both dog and farm animals must be registered by law

The findings reveal that children’s exposure to dogs in the first year of their life was associated with a 15% lower incidence of childhood asthma. Farm animal exposure produced even greater results, lowering the asthma risk by as much as a staggering 52%.

Dr Tove Fall, the study’s lead scientist from Uppsala University in Sweden, said: “Earlier studies have shown that growing up on a farm reduces a child’s risk of asthma to about half.

“We wanted to see if this relationship was true also for children growing up with dogs in their homes. Our results confirmed the farming effect and we also saw that children who grew up with dogs had about 15% less asthma than children without dogs.

“Because we had access to such a large and detailed data set, we could account for confounding factors such as asthma in parents, area of residence and socio-economic status.”

Profess Catarina Almqvist Malmros who co-authored the study said: “These kind of epidemiological studies look for associations in large populations but do not provide answers on whether and how animals could protect children from developing asthma.

“We know that children with established allergy to cats or dogs should avoid them, but our results also indicate that children who grow up with dogs have reduced risks of asthma later in life.

“Thanks to the population-based design, our results are generalisable to the Swedish population and probably also to other European populations with similar culture regarding pet ownership and farming.”

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