HEALTH AND WELLNESS
It's never too late to paws and breathe.
A DOG'S kiss can heal you. This is what researchers from the University of Arizona are out to prove as they work on a novel study that seeks to unravel the health benefits people get from owning a dog, especially one that showers them with wet kisses.
Researchers are exploring the “yogurt” effect a dog has on a person's health as both are believed to share the same gut bacteria over time.
A synopsis of the study pointed out that “dogs might work as probiotics to enhance the health of the bacteria that live in our guts. These bacteria or the microbiota, are increasingly recognized as playing an essential role in our mental and physical health, especially as we age.”
The study is being conducted under the university's Department of Psychiatry's new Human-Animal Interaction Research Initiative, which aims to bring researchers from different disciplines together, to explore the mutual benefits of human-animal relationships. It is also being done in partnership with the Humane Society of Southern Arizona and colleagues at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Getting those big, saliva-thick sloppy kisses from our dogs is probably one effective way dogs activate the “good” bacteria that reside in our guts. Researchers hypothesized that “good” bacteria is like a “probiotic” and cited researches that have established that people who own dogs are much more likely to share the same kinds of these good bacteria with their dogs.
“We have also learned that children who are raised with dogs are less likely than others to develop a range of immune related disorders, including asthma and allergies. Suggesting that maybe dogs are enhancing the good bacteria in our bodies, and possibly improving our health,” they added.
Researchers want to further their study by looking at how owning a dog can help improve the immune systems of older adults, like in the case of the children. They also want to know if the dog's probiotic effect would work with people who haven’t lived with a dog ever or for a long period of time. Researchers are keen to know whether owning a dog would improve this type of older adults' sleep, muscle and bone strength, mobility, and their overall happiness and quality of life.
To do this, the researchers are choosing participants aged over 50 and who have not lived with a dog for at least six months. Each will be paired with a dog from the humane society and will live together for three months. Researchers will periodically examine both the person and the dog's gut bacteria, diet, physical activity levels and immune function in a non-invasive manner.
It is their hope that they will find positive impacts on gut microflora in either the humans or the dogs and improvements in both the participants' and the dogs' health and emotional well-being.
Now that you know a dog's kiss has curative powers, would you gladly take it three times a day?
* Lameness in dogs explained