dogcatFinish researchers have found that babies in dog and cat-owning families were 44 per cent less likely to get inner ear infections and 29 percent less likely to need antibiotics.

Dogs are thought to prime children's immune system to attack bacteria and viruses, while living with cats is also be good for babies' health, but to a lesser extent.

In this latest study, published in the healthcare journal Pediatrics, Kuopio University Hospital in Finland tracked the health of nearly 400 infants during their first year through weekly parent diaries.

Infants with no dog contact were healthy for just 65 per cent of the time, compared to 76 per cent of children who lived with a canine.

Healthiest of all were those with a pet dog that spent no more than six hours inside the house.

The researchers suggest this could be because these animals are spending more time outside and so bringing home more grime and bugs but added that they could not rule out other explanations for the link, including differences between pet owners and those without animals at home.

The finding supports the theory that a certain amount of exposure to dirt and grime helps the immune system mature, with past research linking having a pet as a youngster with a lower risk of allergies.

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Posted 11/07/2012 by