Allergic diseases are more common among dogs and their owners in urban environments

In urban settings, allergic diseases are more common in dogs and their owners than in rural areas.

Simultaneous allergic traits appear to be linked to the microbes found in the environment, but health microbes differ between dogs and humans.

In a joint research project called DogEnvi, researchers from the University of Helsinki, the Finnish Environment Institute, and the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare previously observed that dogs are more likely to have allergies when their owners are suffering from allergic symptoms.

In a new study, researchers looked at whether such coexistence of allergic traits was linked to gut or skin microbes shared by dogs and their owners. A total of 168 pairs of dog owners who live in rural and urban environments took part in the study.

Research shows that dogs and owners who live in rural areas have a lower risk of developing an allergic disease compared to urban areas. We assumed that in rural areas both dogs and owners would be exposed to health-promoting microbes. We found that the microbial exposure of both was different in rural and urban settings. For example, the skin microbiota varied more between individuals in rural areas compared to their urban counterparts. Diverse and diverse microbial exposure can be exactly what brings the associated health benefits. “

Jenni Lehtimäki, PhD, Senior Researcher, Finnish Environmental Institute

Dogs and their owners seemed to share microbes on their skin, but not in their intestines. The study showed that the living environment in dogs and humans had a significantly more significant influence on the skin microbiota than on the intestines.

Dogs living in urban areas had more microbes on their skin that are typically found on human skin. This can be caused by the accumulation of microbes typical of people indoors and in urban areas, a phenomenon that was previously observed.

In a previous study, the researchers found that both the living environment and living habits influenced the microbiota of the dog’s skin.

“The same thing has now been seen in humans. In both dogs and humans, the risk of developing allergic diseases was lowest when the skin microbiota was dominated by a rural setting and a lifestyle that encouraged microbial abundance in the number of different animals Family as well as larger families, “says Professor Hannes Lohi from the University of Helsinki.

While the living environment appeared to change the types of skin microbiota as well as the risk of allergic disease in dogs and their owners, no common microbe in the environment was associated with allergies in dogs and humans.

“We discovered microbes associated with urban dog allergies and microbes associated with rural dog and human health. However, these microbes were different between dogs and humans.

It appears that the microbes in the living environment are important to the health of dogs and humans, but due to the physiological differences between species, the relevant microbes can vary, “concludes Lehtimäki.

DogEnvi, a multidisciplinary research project launched in 2014, aims to investigate the importance of the living environment for the health of dogs. As part of the project, a study will be carried out on the relationship between gut microbiota, diet and allergies. The project was funded by the Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation, among others.


Journal reference:

Lehtimäki, J., et al. (2020) Simultaneous allergic traits in dogs and their owners are linked to living environment, lifestyle, and exposure to microbes. Scientific reports.