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Tag: infants

Two new studies show dogs can protect children from allergies, eczema

SONY DSC Even before your human baby is born, having a dog in the house can protect him or her against developing allergic eczema.

According to a study presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) Annual Scientific Meeting, babies born in a home with a dog during pregnancy receive protection from allergic eczema, at least in their early years.

The study was one on two presented at the conference in Boston dealing with protections dogs provide to children with allergies — even allergies to dogs.

In the second study, researchers examined the effects of two different types of dog exposure on children with asthma in Baltimore, according to Medical News Today.

The first type was the protein, or allergen, that affects children who are allergic to dogs. The second type were elements, such as bacteria, that a dog might carry.

The researchers concluded that exposure to the elements that dogs carry may have a protective effect against asthma symptoms. But exposure to the allergen may result in more asthma symptoms among urban children with dog allergy.

“Among urban children with asthma who were allergic to dogs, spending time with a dog might be associated with two different effects,” says Po-Yang Tsou, MD, MPH, lead author. “There seems to be a protective effect on asthma of non-allergen dog-associated exposures, and a harmful effect of allergen exposure.”

In the first study, led by ACAAI member Dr. Gagandeep Cheema, researchers investigated how exposure to dogs before birth influenced the risk of childhood eczema.

Eczema is a condition characterized by rashes and patches of dry, itchy skin, most commonly on the hands, feet, face, elbows and knees.

While the causes of eczema remain unclear, it is believed to arise when the immune system overreacts in response to certain allergens or irritants.

“Although eczema is commonly found in infants, many people don’t know there is a progression from eczema to food allergies to nasal allergies and asthma,” Cheema said in a press release. “We wanted to know if there was a protective effect in having a dog that slowed down that progress.”

“We found a mother’s exposure to dogs before the birth of a child is significantly associated with lower risk of eczema by age 2 years, but this protective effect goes down at age 10,” says allergist Edward M. Zoratti, MD, ACAAI member and a study co-author.

(A girl and her dog in Baltimore, by John Woestendiek)

We have more empathy for dogs than we do for most humans, study says

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People are more empathetic towards dogs than they are their fellow humans — unless that human is an infant, a new study has concluded.

In the study, 240 students were shown fake newspaper clippings about attacks with baseball bats that left the victims unconscious, with a broken leg and multiple lacerations.

Then they were asked questions aimed at gauging their empathy for the fictional victims in the account they had read — either a one-year-old baby, a 30-year-old adult, a puppy, or a six-year-old dog.

While the human infant evoked the most empathy, the puppy trailed closely behind, then the adult dog, with the adult victim finishing last.

The study was published this week in the journal Society and Animals.

The study was similar to one conducted two years ago by Harrison’s Fund, a medical research charity in the UK.

In that one, two printed two advertisements were show to people, both of which asked: “Would you give £5 to save Harrison from a slow, painful death?” In one of the advertisements Harrison was a child, in the other he was a dog.

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Harrison the dog got significantly more clicks than Harrison the human, the Times of London reported.

The newer study found people are consistently more distressed by reports of dogs being beaten up than they are by the same reports about adult humans.

The scientists, from Northeastern University in Boston, found that those who who read the report about an attack on a child, dog or puppy all registered similar levels of empathy. When it was a human adult, however, the results were different.

“Subjects did not view their dogs as animals, but rather as ‘fur babies,’ or family members alongside human children,” the researchers concluded.

Dogs may prevent, not cause, asthma in kids

Lau-in-labIf fears of triggering asthma are keeping you from getting a dog, you might want to reconsider.

University of Arizona researchers say having a dog in the home at the time of a child’s birth may actually decrease his or her chance of developing asthma. And the National Institutes of Health think it’s worth almost a million dollars to find out for sure.

Serrine Lau and a team of researchers at the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy have received a two-year, $937,000 challenge grant to study the issue.

“Several longitudinal studies have shown that exposure to certain domestic animals, for example, indoor dogs, during a person’s early life (even possibly before he or she is born) is associated with strong protection against asthma and asthma-related conditions later in life,” Lau said.

“The purpose of our research is to learn more about the biological mechanisms responsible for the protective effects of dog exposure. Conceivably, this could be a step toward someday leveraging these mechanisms for treatment or even preventive purposes.”

The team hypothesizes that exposure to dogs at an early age creates a “signature” (either the presence or the modification of a protein) in a child’s blood.

By comparing the signatures of children known to have been exposed to dogs at an early age with the signatures of children known not to have been exposed to dogs, and by noting the presence or absence of asthma in the children, the team hopes to learn more about how children exposed to dogs at an early age are protected from asthma.

(Photo: Courtesy of University of Arizona)

Bark 1: Babies know when a bark is angry

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New research shows babies have a handle on the meaning of different dog barks – despite little or no previous exposure to dogs.

Infants just 6 months old can match the sounds of an angry snarl and a friendly bark to photos of dogs displaying threatening and welcoming body language, according to researchers at Brigham Young University.

“Emotion is one of the first things babies pick up on in their social world,” said BYU psychology professor Ross Flom, lead author of the study. Flom and two BYU students report their findings in the journal Developmental Psychology.

The new findings come on the heels of a study from the same  lab showing that infants can detect mood swings in Beethoven’s music.

“We chose dogs because they are highly communicative creatures both in their posture and the nature of their bark,” Flom said.

In the experiment, the babies first saw two different pictures of the same dog, one in an aggressive posture and the other in a friendly stance. Then the researchers played – in random order – sound clips of a friendly and an aggressive dog bark.

Texas looks at weight-specific legislation

Two fatal pit bull attacks on infants in Texas has the state legislature taking a look at revising the state’s dangerous dog laws, including breed specific legislation, creating a separate category for dogs that appear they could be “vicious” and — believe it or not — maybe even weight-specific legislation.

“I think we ought to by state law determine that if you are a vicious dog, we ought to prevent you from going to public parks, to schools where kids congregate and if you live in a city with more than one million citizens, require that any dog that over 40 pounds be enclosed in a fence,” said Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, (D) San Antonio.

Specifically, that section of his proposed law reads: A person who owns or keeps custody or control of a dog weighing 40 pounds or more shall ensure that the dog, at any time the dog is not on a leash in the immediate control of a person, is kept inside a residence or in a secure enclosure on the premises where the dog is kept.

Perhaps the most troubling part of the bill, though, is that, unlike “dangerous” dogs, who are so deemed because of their actions, the criteria for judging a dog “vicious” is based only on appearance — does he snarl, is he jumping at the fence? No aggressive action needs occur, according to the Texas Humane Legislation Network.

On March 31 in San Antonio, a 7-month-old boy, being taken care of by his great-grandmother, was attacked by her two pit bulls when she went to get a bottle for the child, according to UPI. The week before, in Luling, about 25 miles east of San Antonio, an 18-month-old boy was killed by a pregnant pit bull his mother was dogsitting, according to the Austin American-Statesman.