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Being ‘as sick as a dog’ might be good for you…

Man's best friend wants to share his bacteria. And you should let him.

Man’s best friend wants to share his bacteria. And you should let him.

For anyone who has had the joy/horror of being woken up by a dog’s tongue will testify, our canine friends are disgusting creatures. They’re also covered in dog bacteria, which you would assume would be a pretty strong reason not to hang out with them. Not so, if a theory from the University of Arizona proves to be correct.

They’re going to look at blood and skin samples from dogs and humans over a three month period to track health changes, and find whether the bacteria from dogs and their pungent saliva can reduce the effects of an allergic reaction – in other words, can the dog’s microbiome boost its owners’ immune system?

“We’ve co-evolved with dogs over the millennia, but nobody really understands what it is about this dog-human relationship that makes us feel good about being around dogs,” says Kim Kelly, an anthropology doctoral student┬áparticipating in the research.

“Is it just that they’re fuzzy and we like to pet them, or is there something else going on under the skin? The question really is: Has the relationship between dogs and humans gotten under the skin? And we believe it has.”

That we share bacteria with dogs by cohabiting isn’t disputed, and studies have shown this, but its generally understood that a great bacterial diversity leads to a stronger immune system, helping dog owners out in the long-run. And dogs love long runs.

The study isn’t definitely going to happen yet – they’re trying to raise $75,000 to make it happen, due to a shortage in scientific funding budgets in the United States. You can donate here, should you wish – and if it makes you feel better, they’ll be using shelter dogs in the research. So everyone’s a winner – even the bacteria who get to go forth and multiply.

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