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Do You Love Dog Kisses? Dog Research Aims To Find Out Whether Dog Germs Are Good For You!


Do you love dog kisses or do you cringe at the thought of a dog licking your face? A new dog research project aims to find out whether dog germs are good for you.

Non-dog lovers may never understand why we love dog kisses.  We never say no to dog kisses. They’re part of the affection our dear dogs give us.

Now it seems that aside from the fuzzy feelings dog kisses give, a dog’s saliva may have microbial benefits for humans!

Dog Research Aims To Find Out Whether Dog Germs Are Good For You (5)The team, led by University of Arizona researchers, are recruitung people for a study of whether living with dogs improves human microbiome. Researchers from UC San Diego are also taking part in the study.

“We essentially want to find out, is a dog acting like yogurt in having a probiotic effect?” said Kim Kelly, one of the research leaders, in a press release.

Many lines of evidence suggest dog microbiota may have favorable effects on people, said Charles Raison, the study’s principal investigator.


Dogs add the “tough” to too-clean humans

Dog Research Aims To Find Out Whether Dog Germs Are Good For You (3) In this era of exceptional cleanliness, allergies and inflammatory diseases have increased. It’s one of life’s paradoxes! The lack of bacteria—which are mostly harmless and some helpful –may be the reason behind the “Old Friends” hypothesis.

Over thousands of years, humans have evolved together with bacteria. We have grown accustomed to their presence, said Raison, a psychiatry professorat the university’s College of Medicine.

“These bacteria that we call the old friends became teachers of tolerance for the immune system,” Raison said. “They took over the job of training the immune system not to react to things that are irrelevant, like pollen.”


Kids raised with dogs have less allergies

Dog Research Aims To Find Out Whether Dog Germs Are Good For You (1) “There’s epidemiological work showing that kids raised with dogs don’t tend to get allergies and asthma,” he said. “So we think that dogs have anti-inflammatory effects, based on effects in kids.”

“Increasingly we think now that maybe it’s because of sharing the microbiota. There are data that families that have dogs share as much of their microbiota with the dogs as they do with each other.

Other evidence suggests that when the microbiome of people over 65 gets bad, they’re much more likely to become frail, get sick and die, Raison said. “The data suggest dogs can change people’s microbiota,” he said.  


Living with dogs has psychological health benefits!

Dog Research Aims To Find Out Whether Dog Germs Are Good For You (4) According to Raison, some of the benefits of living with dogs are doubtless psychological.

Measuring changes in microbiota will help distinguish the psychological effect from the microbial. Rob Knight, an internationally renowned human microbiome expert, is leading UC San Diego’s part of the study.

The study seeks people who are at least 50 years old, and have not taken antibiotics, or lived with a dog in the last six months. The participants will be provided with a dog from the Humane Society of Southern Arizona to live with for three months.

They will be allowed to choose which dog they want, and have the option of adopting the dog when the study is over. In the beginning, the human participants’ gut microbes will assessed non-invasively, along with diet, activity and immune system function. Dog gut microbes and activity will also be assessed.

There will be reassessments at the end of each month to determine whether there is any benefit to the microbiome of the people or the dogs. Changes in the mental health of humans and dogs will also be assessed.  


Previous dog microbiota studies

Dog Research Aims To Find Out Whether Dog Germs Are Good For You (2) In 2012, a team including UCSD researchers studied the canine oral microbiome.  The UCSD also hosted research into the canine fecal metagenome.

For many years, the human microbes has been studied.In the April 16 issue of eLife, a study found that family members living together share microbes with each other, and with their dogs. Now, the researchers are focusing on the relation between human microbes and dog microbes.

“Dog ownership significantly increased the shared skin microbiota in cohabiting adults, and dog-owning adults shared more ‘skin’ microbiota with their own dogs than with other dogs,” the eLife study stated.

Canines have evolved with people for tens of thousands of years. Generally, scientists agree that this symbiosis is very important to human civilization.


Image source: Flickr| Tony Alterdani0010, Sean Freesem01229, Don DeBold

Article source: UT San Diego