Researchers from Henry Ford Hospital followed over 500 children for the first 18 years of their lives. The researchers periodically contacted the parents and children to collect information about exposure to cats and dogs.
At age 18, the study participants were asked for blood samples, which the researchers measured for antibodies to dog and cat allergens.
The results showed that being exposed to the specific animal in the first year of life was the most important exposure period, and not only did it not increase the risk of children’s allergies, it actually appeared to be protective in some groups.
Males whose family had kept an indoor dog during their first year of life were about half as likely to become allergic to dogs compared to males in families with no dogs. Both men and women were about half as likely to become allergic to cats if they lived with one in the first year of life.
The study was published in the journal Clinical & Experimental Allergy.