Recent research is suggesting that having a dog as a pet can help protect children against eczema. Children with a dog in the home at age 1 had a significantly reduced risk of eczema at age 4. On the other hand, children who had a cat in the home were more likely to have the condition at the same age.
The hypothesis is that children gain natural immunotherapy from exposure to the dog and becomes more tolerant of allergies. The study was done using newborns in Cincinnati whose parents had allergies and/or eczema, which makes it more likely for the children to develop the condition.
The study and tests show the children who tested positive for a dog allergy and did not live with a dog had 4 times the risk of getting eczema than those who tested positive and did own a dog by age 4. Humans can test positive for an allergy but not have any symptoms. The higher the dog allergen levels were in the home, the lower the risk was for the children to develop eczema by age 4.
The study also looked at eggs, milk and nuts for more information on its link to eczema. It is recommended to delay such common allergic foods with young children. It is also good to keep in mind aeroallergens for children, as well as food allergies.
There is no definitive answer as to whether or not dogs will prevent the onset of eczema or that cats will increase the risks. The research was done to encourage deeper analyses and better intervention strategies.