Cats also provided a similar benefit, found researchers, but the connection is not as strong as with dogs.

397 Finnish children from both rural and suburban areas were tested to see if being exposed to cats and dogs in their early years would offer protection from respiratory or ear infections. The study found that infants with pets, especially dogs, had stronger immune systems growing up, especially if the pet spent a lot of time outdoors.

Parents in households with dogs reported their child as being healthy 73% of the time, while the children without dogs were healthy only 65% of the time. The health of each child was determined by weekly surveys submitted by their parents.

“The children having dogs at home were healthier, they had less ear infections and they needed less antibiotics,” said Eija Bergrouth, lead author of the study.

A similar study funded by the National Institutes of Health found evidence that chances of developing allergies were lowered in children that lived with two or more dogs or cats in their first year than those with no contact with the typical household pets.

Researchers hypothesize the connection is due to the increased exposure to dirt and bacteria, forcing the infants to develop stronger immune systems.

Photo via Getty.