Could Family Dog reduce the child's risk of schizophrenia?

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By Alan Mozes

HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, December 24, 2019 (HealthDay News) – You may only want to throw Fido some extra bones for the holidays, as new research suggests that growing up with a dog can reduce the risk of schizophrenia by up to 24%.

Unfortunately, cat lovers have no luck. A similar link was not seen regarding feline property.

"We found that a history of having a pet dog present at birth or before age 3 was associated with a lower prevalence of schizophrenia, compared to people who did not have this exposure," said lead author Dr. Robert Yolken, professor of neurovirology in pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore.

Why? The jury is still deliberating. On the one hand, the study simply analyzed pet ownership among approximately 1,400 men and women. It does not prove that dogs cause the risk of schizophrenia to fall.

It is also unclear whether any potential benefit would be rooted in the particular link between a young man and man's best friend, or in the way dogs could affect a child's immune system.

"One [explanation] is that families with pet dogs differ from families without pets, or with pet cats, in some way associated with different rates of schizophrenia, "said Yolken.

That could mean differences in the place where dog owners tend to live, what they eat, their income or educational background, or any number of lifestyle choices.

"It's also possible that having a dog has a positive emotional effect on children," Yolken said.

"Finally, it is possible that some members of the dog's microbiome, beneficial microorganisms that reside in healthy dogs, are transmitted to a baby and that these organisms provide some protection against the development of schizophrenia in adulthood," he added. .

The researchers said more study is definitely warranted to explore such possibilities, given that the United States has an estimated 3.5 million cases of schizophrenia. Y around 90 million companion dogs.

In theory, that could mean up to 840,000 fewer cases of schizophrenia, if dog ownership in childhood could be confirmed as protective.


For this study, published in a recent issue of Plus oneThe researchers focused on the previous ownership of dogs and cats among 1,371 people in Baltimore between the ages of 18 and 65. Just under 400 had been diagnosed with schizophrenia after childhood. A similar number had bipolar disorder. The others had none.

Those who had a pet during childhood were divided into four groups by age when the pet was present: from birth to 3 years; 4 to 5; 6 to 8; and from 9 to 12.

No protective association was observed between juvenile exposure of the dog and a lower risk of bipolar disorder, or cat ownership and any disease.

However, cat ownership among children aged 9 to 12 years was associated with an increased risk of developing schizophrenia. Y Bipolar disorder together. Why it remains unclear. Other research has suggested that a parasitic disease of cats called toxoplasmosis can affect human mental health after exposure to the feces of an infected feline.

But this new study found that having a dog at home before age 13 was related to a "significantly" lower risk of schizophrenia. The biggest benefit was for those who had a dog before age 3.

Two psychiatrists who did not participate in the study said the findings are interesting.

"Recent studies have shown that dogs reduce stress, anxiety, depression, relieve loneliness, encourage exercise and improve routine [healthy] general people's health, "said Dr. Alan Manevitz, a clinical psychiatrist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

Dr. Timothy Sullivan, president of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Staten Island University Hospital in New York City, seconded that notion.

"Exposure to dogs in childhood also helps reduce the subsequent incidence of allergies and asthma," he said. "And the evidence also suggests that exposure to dogs and perhaps other pets, which have minds similar to ours, produces a mild level of stress that helps babies develop adequate mechanisms to manage anxiety and threat."

On that front, Manevitz noted that people with dogs tend to have lower blood pressure and a lower risk of heart disease.

"It has been shown that just playing with dogs raises oxytocin and dopamine, creating positive feelings and bonds for both the person and their pet," he said. Dog ownership, he added, can also help strengthen family cohesion and social skills.


But both Sullivan and Manevitz reiterated Yolken's warning that this study simply illustrates an association and does not firmly establish Fido's mental health credentials.

"That kind of confirmation," Sullivan said, "requires more research."

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SOURCES: Robert Yolken, M.D., professor, neurovirology, pediatrics and professor of pediatrics, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore; Timothy Sullivan, M.D., president, psychiatry, Staten Island University Hospital, New York; Alan Manevitz, M.D., clinical psychiatrist, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City;Plus oneDecember 2, 2019

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