Study shows living environment affects the microbiota and health of dogs and their owners Photo Credit: Pixabay
Helsinki: 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 living in rural areas are at lower risk of developing an allergic disease compared to urban areas. We believed that both dogs and owners are exposed to health-promoting microbes in rural areas. We found that the microbial exposures of both were different in rural and urban settings. For example, skin microbiota varied more between individuals in rural areas than in urban areas. Diverse and different microbial exposure may be exactly what the associated health benefits “says Senior Researcher Jenni Lehtimaki, PhD, from the 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 promoted microbial abundance. One such lifestyle was associated with several different animals in the 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 Dogs and humans are important to the health of both, but due to the physiological differences between species, the relevant microbes can vary, “summarizes Lehtimaki.