Owning a dog may give your health an even bigger boost than we realized.
Allergy-busters? Researchers from the University of Arizona are launching a new study to see if bacteria found on pet dogs encourage the growth of beneficial microorganisms in humans -- enough to lessen the sneezing, itching, and hives of an allergic reaction.
The study will analyze blood and skin samples of humans and their furry friends over a three-month period to track health changes, NPR reported.
"We've co-evolved with dogs over the millennia, but nobody really understands what it is about this dog-human relationship that makes us feel good about being around dogs," Kim Kelly, an anthropology doctoral student who is participating in the new research, said in a written statement. "Is it just that they're fuzzy and we like to pet them, or is there something else going on under the skin? The question really is: Has the relationship between dogs and humans gotten under the skin? And we believe it has."
Sharing germs. Previous studies show that, indeed, dogs share much of their bacteria with their human owners over time, and households with pet dogs have greater bacterial diversity -- don't worry, exposure to a variety of microbes seems to build a stronger immune system.
"We think dogs might work as probiotics to enhance the health of the bacteria that live in our guts. These bacteria, or 'microbiota,' are increasingly recognized as playing an essential role in our mental and physical health, especially as we age," Dr. Charles Raison, professor of psychiatry at the university and the principal investigator for the study, said in the statement.
How did our relationship with dogs begin in the first place? Check out the "Talk Nerdy To Me" video below.