Young boy and puppy

An old Mexican folk remedy for a child’s asthma is to adopt a Chihuahua. Most experts have long categorized this idea as an old wives’ tale that has no basis in science.

Now, a new study published in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that dogs might indeed offer some protection against allergic airway disease. The research was conducted in mice rather than human children, though.

Animals exposed to dust from houses in which dogs lived had changes in their intestinal flora, their immune systems and their response to airway allergens. The researchers identified Lactobacillus johnsonii as a pivotal species in the gut ecosystem that helps reduce an asthma-like response to allergic or infectious challenges. So perhaps the old Mexican wives were not completely off base after all.

[Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, online Dec. 16, 2013]

This resarch offers a possible mechanism for the so-called hygiene hypothesis, an observation that kids who live on farms are less likely to develop allergies, eczema and asthma than children in very clean urban environments.

For a completely different perspective on asthma, we recommend A Cure for Asthma? What Your Doctor Isn’t Telling You–and Why by Dr. David Hahn (published by People’s Pharmacy Press).

Join Over 90,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy

Each week we send two free email newsletters with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies and a preview of our award-winning radio show. Join our mailing list and get the information you need to make confident choices about your health.

  1. Cindy M. B.

    I have always believed that the frequency, intensity and duration of asthma attacks, as with so many other maladies, is mediated in large part by anxiety; it’s the old mind/body connection. It’s been proven time and again, and is also supported by massive anecdotal evidence, that animals reduce anxiety and increase happiness. Similarly, animals can also enhance cancer survival rates, etc. I have many animals (which I happily share germs with including kissing them copiously) and I never get sick. Voila.

  2. Barbara

    Hogwash, or should I saw, dogwash!
    Who could believe mice do well with a chihuahua, and a child would too. This is foolishness.
    I am getting tired of reading nonsense. My New Year’s resolution is to get rid of reading and viewing time wasting “news.” Today I am getting rid of cable tv. Instead of saying “peace out,” try saying “peace in,” and only let reason and peace into your ears and brain.

  3. Donnie

    My parents and our family, and my grandparents all lived on farms and we had dogs, cats and farm animals. Many of us have asthma, allergies and autoimmune diseases. Same for my son, and my brothers family, cousins, etc. Those disorders run in my family on both sides, going back several generations.
    The too clean theory is a bunch of bunk for the most part. People who use toxic cleaning products probably are making themselves and their families sick, though. Those are an assault on our immune and respiratoy systems. If that is a factor, and it is likely to be, then doctors should say so.
    Blame the chemicals, not the parents for being ‘too’ clean. Misleading information helps no one. I have to avoid using chemical cleaning products, because they make me sick. And so does my son and other family members. I’ve been with dogs all of my life, and am not allergic to them. None of my family have ever been allergic to dogs.

  4. GA

    My parents believed this and, because I had asthma, we always had chihuahua dogs. It did not work. Another home remedy my parents tried was a concoction of cod liver oil, whiskey, and rock candy. The cod liver oil rose to the top, the rock candy sank to the bottom. It was awful and that didn’t work either.

What Do You Think?

We invite you to share your thoughts with others, but remember that our comment section is a public forum. Please do not use your full first and last name if you want to keep details of your medical history anonymous. A first name and last initial or a pseudonym is acceptable. Advice from other commenters on this website is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. Stopping medication suddenly could result in serious harm. We expect comments to be civil in tone and language. By commenting, you agree to abide by our commenting policy and website terms & conditions. Comments that do not follow these policies will not be posted.