We all know that we share genes with our biological parents and kids, but what about microbes? Studies find that families share skin, tongue, and gut microbes with each other… and their dogs.
Humans have lived alongside dogs for a long-time. It is widely believed that dogs evolved from a group of wolves, which came into contact with European hunter-gathers over 18,000 years ago.
There’s fairly good scientific evidence that people who own dogs are happier, less stressed, and live longer lives. Scientists also agree that a healthy gut microbiome is linked to more than just gastrointestinal tract regularity… it can also prevent a number of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease.
But could it be possible that dogs might act as a source of healthy bacteria?
A fascinating study from the University of California at San Diego points in this direction.
As with other family members, owners share more microbes with their dogs than they do with other people’s dogs.
It’s not surprising since bacteria from a dog’s fur and paws is easily transferred to the skin of humans living in the same space. Studies have shown that owning a dog has an impact on the sharing of microbes between cohabitating individuals. Cohabitating individuals have been found to have more bacteria in common with each other as compared to those couples that don’t own dogs.
Living with dogs has been associated with a lower risk of developing allergies and asthma in children. This may be largely due to the “hygiene hypothesis.” Though still a matter of debate, the hygiene hypothesis is the idea that modern society’s efforts to avoid infectious disease (e.g., antibiotic soaps, hand sanitizer, air filters, etc.) contributes to a rise in allergies and asthma.
Many scientists believe that infants and children need exposure to harmless microbes in order to “train” their developing immune systems to distinguish between self and foreign molecules and not to overreact and end up damaging one’s own tissues, as immune systems do in asthma and allergies. Perhaps, living with a dog helps with this immune system training.
Anyway, if you do have a canine companion, why not have a good dose of cuddling up with it today? Your microbiome may just thank you.