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Science Wednesday, April 17th 2013 at 1:30 pm

Pet Owners Could Share More Microbes With Their Dogs Than Their Children

Elvis and Amelia

Pet owners probably accept the fact that they’re sharing microbes with their furry friend to some degree or another. Parents also probably make this assumption about their children, because at the end of the day both pets and children are pretty disgusting animals. A new study says that, of the two, you probably share more microbes with your dog than with your kids.

The above picture features my daughter Amelia, who regularly spits up on me, and my dog Elvis Costello, whose poop I am forever picking up from the yard. It’s safe to assume there’s going to be some bacterial crossover on both fronts, but new research done at the University of Colorado Boulder looked at how 60 American families and their dogs share microbes, and they were surprised by the results.

Associate Professor Rob Knight and doctoral student Se Jin Song led the team that tested 159 humans and 36 dogs that made up the 60 families. Of the families studied, 17 of them had small children between the ages of six and 18 months, 17 had dogs but no children, 18 of the families had neither children or dogs, and only eight of them had both children and dogs. All of the children were biologically related to the parents in the study, but we assume that none of the dogs were.

Knight and Song tested the foreheads, tongues, and both palms of the humans as well as fecal samples. Their dog counterparts, not having palms, had all four paws tested as well as their tongues, and the fur on their foreheads. The dogs were also subject to fecal tests. Knight said he was surprised to see such a strong microbial connection between dogs and their owners. He said, “In fact, the microbial connection seems to be stronger between parents and family dogs than between parents and their children.”

Considering the small sample size (just eight) of the families that had both dogs and children, this is hardly a definitive result. Even if the data for the families with just dogs, or just children is taken into account, a further study of just families with both would have to be done to get a better idea of whether these findings are common.

(via Phys Org)

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