The best preventive health care for your baby may come in canine form. A study focused on respiratory tract infections (like colds and ensuing ear infections) found that Finnish infants who lived with dogs were healthy 73% of the time during their first 12 months; for kids without dogs, the figure was 65%, the Wall Street Journalreports. The kids who were healthy most often (75.7% of the time) lived with dogs who spent at least 18 hours a day romping outdoors. That could be because those pups bring home more dirt and germs, which experts say can help boost a developing immune system.
Babies with dogs also needed fewer antibiotics, a researcher says. Overall, kids in homes with dogs had about a 30% lower risk of respiratory infection symptoms and about half the ear infection risk, the AFP notes. Cats, too, appeared to help babies' health, but the link was weaker. The study reviewed 397 kids born in the same hospital; research was based on weekly parental polls, starting when the baby was nine weeks old. But almost no one got off scot-free: Only 3% of babies didn't have a runny nose at some point.