Embrace your dog's bacteria.
The benefits of keeping animals as pets are increasingly well documented. Studies have shown that walking a dog reduces the risks of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and depression and that the benefits are independent of the physical activity that dog walking entails. In March 2013 there was a European promotion to encourage the benefits of pets for the elderly after a year long study showed that elderly patients with pets showed improved physical and mental health as well as quality of life. A review of animal assisted therapy concluded that it is an effective help for mental health problems in patients of all ages including patients with depression, anxiety, addiction, schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorder. From dogs and dolphins to cats and chinchillas, the human animal bond is healthy. Even snakes and spiders can have positive effects, but the idea that your pet's bugs could be beneficial is a new one. The relationship between the bacteria and our body (the microbiome) is a fast growing area of research. A recent article in the New Scientist suggests that a transfer of some of your pet's bugs could help maintain a healthy microbiome. So kissing the dog might not be as bad for you as previously thought.
Lentino et al. Dog walking is associated with a favourable risk profile independent of moderate to high volume physical activity. J Phys Act Health Mar 2012.
European campaign to promote the benefits of pets to the elderly. Vet rec Mar 2013.
Banszky et al. The psychiatric aspects of animal assisted therapy. Psychiatr Hung 2012.