Dogs, Kids
New research claims dogs can help protect children from eczema and asthma, pictured is a girl hugging her dog at the National Exhibition Centre on March 5, 2015 in Birmingham, England. Getty Images

Growing up with dogs may be able to aid in protecting against the development of eczema and asthma in young children, according to new research. Two studies presented at American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) Annual Scientific Meeting have found that dogs possess health benefits that could help reduce eczema and asthma in kids.

ACAAI's Annual Scientific Meeting is a conference that seeks to build upon current knowledge as research is brought from around the world and presented before fellow allergists, whether an individual is a veteran allergist or a Fellow-in-Training. The first study focused on infants who grow up with dogs in their homes, whereas the second looked into the potential protection dogs may provide against asthma — even in children who possess dog allergies.

"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," allergist Gagandeep Cheema, MD, ACAAI member and lead author of the first study, said in a news release Friday. "We wanted to know if there was a protective effect in having a dog that slowed down that progress."

The first study examined mothers and children dog exposure during pregnancy. "Exposure" was defined in the study as having one or more dogs indoors for at least one hour a day. Results showed that a mother’s exposure to dogs prior to the childbirth is linked to a reduced risk of acquiring eczema by age the age of 2.

The second study evaluated children with asthma that also have dog allergies in Baltimore.

Two different types of dog exposure were examined in asthmatic kids: the protein — or allergen — that affects children with dog allergies and the elements that dogs may carry (i.e. bacteria). Overall, researchers determined that elements carried by dogs may serve as a protectant against asthma. Exposure to this allergen, however, could result in asthma-related problems in urban children who have dog allergies.

"Among urban children with asthma who were allergic to dogs, spending time with a dog might be associated with two different effects," Po-Yang Tsou, MD, MPH, lead author of the second story, said in a news release Friday. "There seems to be a protective effect on asthma of non-allergen dog-associated exposures, and a harmful effect of allergen exposure."

Tsou added, "However, dog allergen exposure remains a major concern for kids who are allergic to dogs."

The two studies findings add to preexisting research available on the health benefits of dogs. Research has previously reported that dogs can aid in maintaining a lower blood pressure, losing weight, reducing stress and battling a disease.

There are an estimated 78 million owned dogs in the U.S., according to American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Dogs are present within 44 percent of American households.