Current Allergy and Asthma Reports

, Volume 7, Issue 5, pp 375-382

First online:

Early exposure to pets: Good or bad?

  • Jeremy D. Bufford
  • , James E. GernAffiliated withUniversity of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics Email author 

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Although pet exposure is known to trigger or worsen allergy symptoms and asthma in patients sensitized to pets, data from recent years has shown that pet exposure in early childhood may actually prevent the development of allergic sensitization and allergic diseases including allergic rhinitis, asthma, and atopic dermatitis. The concept of a protective pet effect remains controversial because these findings have not been duplicated in all studies. Moreover, some studies suggest that pet exposure promotes allergic disease. The protective pet effect may be influenced by multiple factors including type of pet; timing, duration, and intensity of exposure; and genetic factors. The mechanisms behind the protective pet effect remain under investigation but may include alterations in immune development, pet-specific tolerance, and exposure to innate immune stimuli.