Paws for Thought: Your Dog Shares More Germs with You Than Your Kids Do!

You may not realize it, but your body is a thriving metropolis of microorganisms. In fact, trillions of microscopic residents call your body home. And, if you happen to share your life with a dog, you might be surprised to learn that many of these tiny inhabitants have taken up residence in both of you.

Researchers have discovered that dog owners share a significant amount of their microbiome – the collection of bacteria, fungi, and viruses that live in and on their bodies – with their canine companions. Moreover, they found that the connection between a dog owner and their pet is even stronger than that between parents and their children.

Sharing is caring: The microbiome connection between dogs and humans

When researchers investigated the microbes shared between dogs and their owners, they were amazed by the depth of the connection. But just how strong is the bond between a dog’s microbiome and a human’s? It turns out that it can be quite powerful. The bacteria living on the skin and in the gut of a dog’s owner is actually more similar to their dog’s microbiome than that of their own children.

This means that if you’re a dog owner, you and your furry friend are essentially trading microbes back and forth, creating a shared microbial environment. This exchange likely occurs through petting, sharing living spaces, and even by breathing in the same air.

But why should dog owners care about this shared microbiome?

The health benefits of a diverse microbiome

Having a diverse microbiome is actually associated with a range of health benefits for both humans and dogs. A healthy and varied collection of microbes in our gut and on our skin can help boost our immune system and keep harmful bacteria in check. This diverse and balanced ecosystem of microbes is essential to maintaining good health and preventing chronic diseases.

Some studies suggest that children who grow up with dogs develop stronger immune systems, making them less susceptible to allergies and asthma. Researchers believe that early exposure to diverse bacteria found in dogs can strengthen a child’s microbiome, leading to a more robust immune system.

Similarly, dogs with a diverse microbiome have been found to have healthier gastrointestinal systems, improved skin and coat health, and enhanced immune function. Dogs with well-balanced gut microbiota may also be less prone to obesity and other metabolic issues.

Bringing dog owners closer together

It’s not just the physical health benefits that a shared microbiome can bring. In some cases, owning a dog may even bring couples closer together – at least when it comes to their microbes.

One study found that married couples who had a dog had more similarities in their bacterial colonies than couples without one. This indicates that a shared connection to a dog can help create a microbial bond that merges the personal microbiomes of two individuals.

How to support a healthy microbiome for you and your dog

Now that you know the importance of a diverse microbiome and its effect on your well-being and that of your furry friend, there are a few simple things you can do to foster a healthy microbial environment for both of you.

  1. Eat a balanced and varied diet: Making sure that you and your pup are consuming a wide variety of fresh and unprocessed foods can help feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut. Probiotics and fermented foods, like yogurt and sauerkraut, can also promote gut health.
  2. Get outside: Spending time outdoors can introduce you and your dog to new and diverse microbes from the environment. This can help boost your microbial diversity, so make sure you’re both getting plenty of time in nature.
  3. Keep it clean, but not too clean: While it’s essential to maintain proper hygiene to prevent the spread of harmful germs, excessive cleanliness can deprive you and your dog of the good bacteria that help keep you healthy. Strike a balance between cleanliness and allowing your bodies to interact with the natural world.

Sharing your life – including your home, your air, and even your microbes – with a dog can have a wealth of benefits to your health and relationship to others. So, embrace your dog’s germs and enjoy the healthful bond this unique living arrangement can offer.