Lead author Dr. Eija Bergroth, a pediatrician who worked at Kuopio University Hospital in Finland at the time of the study, and colleagues at Kuopio University Hospital, the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Kuopio, Finland, the University of Eastern Finland and the University of Ulm in Germany tracked 397 children from pregnancy to age 1 and the frequency of respiratory symptoms and infections.
The researchers collected information about dog and cat contacts during the first year of life via weekly diaries and a questionnaires by the parents. All the children were born in eastern or middle Finland from September 2002 to May 2005.
The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, found children with dogs at home had fewer ear infections and tended to need fewer courses of antibiotics than children without such contacts.
Both the weekly level of contact with dogs and cats and the average annual level of contact were associated with fewer respiratory infections, the study said.