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Can Having a Pet Reduce Risk of Allergies in Kids?

Ah, there’s nothing better than snuggling up with a pet dog or cat. And now research shows that this sweet, simple act may also help reduce allergies in children.

Hygiene Hypothesis

During the first year of a child’s life, the immune system is kicked into overdrive as it works to establish itself. The hygiene hypothesis indicates that if a child’s environment is too clean, their immune system won’t be as robust, which may put them at an increased risk of developing allergies or other issues.[1] As it turns out, early exposure to animals may help your child’s immune system become even stronger.

Food For Thought

The most recent study looking at the association between animals and food allergies was published in March of 2023 and used data from more than 94,000 Japanese mothers and their children.[2] The researchers found that having a dog lowered the risk of egg, milk, and nut allergies while having a cat lowered the risk of egg, wheat, and soybean allergies.

Other Allergies

Another study from 2020 showed that having a dog in the house was associated with a reduced risk of asthma, seasonal allergies and other types of allergies, and having a cat reduced the risk of developing eczema.[3] Even farm animals may help build immunity in kids. In one study, being exposed to farm animals on a consistent basis significantly reduced the risk of childhood asthma.[4]

Animal Instinct

A baby’s immune system isn’t fully developed when they are born but it continues to get stronger as they age. Early exposure to germs, especially germs from animals, may help strengthen immunity and possibly help protect children from developing allergies.[5]

It’s true that not every family can have a pet or live on a farm; however, this research demonstrates that keeping things too clean may not benefit infants, especially when it comes to their developing immune systems. So go ahead, take your kids to that petting zoo, have them cuddle up with the cat, and soak up that puppy slobber. Their immune system will thank you!

Looking for ways to support your kid’s healthy immune system? Learn five ways to make your house a healthy home. For more tips on nutrition, staying healthy and motherhood follow us on Instagram at @kalvitamins!


[1] Jhun I, Phipatanakul W. Early exposure to dogs and farm animals reduces risk of childhood asthma. Evid Based Med. 2016;21(2):80.

[2] Okabe H, Hashimoto K, Yamada M, et al. Associations between fetal or infancy pet exposure and food allergies: The Japan Environment and Children’s Study. PLoS ONE. 18(3).

[3] Ojwang V, Nwaru BI, Takkinen H, et al. Early exposure to cats, dogs and farm animals and the risk of childhood asthma and allergy. Pediatr Allergy Immunol. 2020;31(3):265-272.

[4] Fall T, Lundholm C, Ortqvist A, et al. Early exposure to dogs and farm animals and the risk of childhood asthma. JAMA Pediatrics. 2015;169(11).

[5] Thompson H. Early exposure to germs has lasting benefits. Nature. 2012;2012.