Effects of dog ownership in early childhood on immune development and atopic diseases

J. D. Bufford, C. L. Reardon, Z. Li, K. A. Roberg, D. DaSilva, P. A. Eggleston, A. H. Liu, D. Milton, U. Alwis, R. Gangnon, R. F. Lemanske, J. E. Gern

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Scopus citations


Background: Exposure to pets in childhood has been associated with a reduced risk of wheezing and atopy. Objective: Our objective was to determine whether the effects of pet exposure on immune development and atopy in early childhood can be explained by alterations in exposure to innate immune stimuli in settled dust. Methods: Two hundred and seventy-five children at increased risk of developing allergic diseases were evaluated to age 3 years for pet ownership, blood cell cytokine responses, and atopy. Can f 1, Fel d 1, endotoxin, ergosterol, and muramic acid were measured in settled dust from 101 homes. Results: Dog exposure at birth was associated with decreased atopic dermatitis (AD) (12% vs. 27%; P=0.004) and wheezing (19% vs. 36%; P=0.005) in year 3. The rates of AD (23%) and wheezing (42%) in year 3 were relatively high in children who acquired dogs after birth. The prevalence of dog sensitization (10-12%) did not vary according to dog exposure. Can f 1 levels in bedroom dust were positively associated with IL-10 (r=0.26; P=0.01), IL-5 (r=0.34, P<0.001), and IL-13 (r=0.28; P=0.004) responses at age 1, and IL-5 (r=0.24; P=0.022) and IL-13 (r=0.25; P=0.015) responses at age 3. In contrast, endotoxin was associated with IFN-γ (r=0.31; P=0.002) and IL-13 (r=0.27; P=0.01) responses at age 3 but not at age 1, and similar relationships were present for muramic acid. Adjustment for levels of innate immune stimuli in house dust did not significantly affect the relationships between Can f 1 and cytokine responses. Conclusions: Exposure to dogs in infancy, and especially around the time of birth, is associated with changes in immune development and reductions in wheezing and atopy. These findings are not explained by exposure to endotoxin, ergosterol, or muramic acid.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1635-1643
Number of pages9
JournalClinical and Experimental Allergy
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Atopic dermatitis
  • Cytokines
  • Dogs
  • Pets
  • Wheezing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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