Puppy love is a good thing for kids, docs say

If you’re on the receiving end of “Can we get a puppy?,” three new studies might make you consider adding a canine to your home. Apparently, children who tested positive for dog allergies were less likely to develop eczema by age 4 if they owned a dog before they were 1.

“Children with dog allergies who did not own dogs were four times more likely to develop eczema,” says the study’s lead author Dr. Tory Epstein of the University of Cincinnati and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Increasingly diagnosed in childhood, eczema, a chronic skin disorder that involves scaly and itchy rashes, puts children at a greater risk of developing asthma and food allergies.

And while you worry you’ll be the one taking care of Sparky, a University of London study of 2,065 children age 9 and 10 found those who own dogs get more exercise than children without a canine companion, spending 11 minutes more at physical activity and taking 360 extra steps per day.

Numerous studies on adults have shown pet ownership helps reduce blood pressure. For children with autism, a specially trained service dog can help reduce severe anxiety. Researchers at the University of Montreal tested the amount of cortisol, a stress hormone, present in the saliva of children with autism before, during and after living with a trained dog and found a 10 percent drop in morning cortisol levels while the service dog was present.

Before you buy a dog, consider adopting from your local animal shelter or rescue group. Check out the adoptable canines available through the Chicago Animal Shelter Alliance or PAWS Chicago, the city’s largest no-kill animal shelter. Not only will you be saving an animal, you’ll also be saving your wallet: Prices typically range from $135 to $275 and include spaying/neutering, vaccinations and microchip identification-a bargain compared to a breeder or pet shop.

Still on the fence? Fostering a shelter pooch lets you get your puppy fix without the commitment-but if you fall in love with your temporary live-in there’s always the adoption option.

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