Why owning a dog might be the best probiotic you can take!

It turns out that the DNA of our gut bacteria shares a lot off similarities with that of pet dogs. What’s interesting is that when compared to other animals (like pigs and mice) that are as genetically similar to humans as dogs are, it’s the dogs that have the most similar gut microbiome (bacterial flora). Dogs have been living in close proximity to us for tens of thousands of years, sharing our environment and diet with us, so perhaps it’s not surprising that out digestive system has evolved similarities at a bacterial level. The similarities don’t end there though, other studies have shown that our gut bacteria is affected directly by being a pet dog owner, with transfer of gut bacteria between pets and us and between other human family members to a greater degree when there is a dog in the household. Most importantly this is largely a beneficial process. Epidemiology studies have shown that children who grow up in households with dogs have a lower risk of developing auto-immune diseases such as asthma and allergies. It is thought that exposure to animal micro-organisms at an early age helps stimulate our immune systems. There are even suggestions that higher levels of certain gut bacteria can have a positive effect on mental health and scientists have hypothesized that the well documented mental health benefits of pet ownership might be partly to do with the effect our pets are having on our gut bacteria. So it turns out that it’s not just unconditional love that our four legged friends are giving us but a healthier gut, immune system and maybe much more!