Pet ownership is associated with increased risk of non-atopic asthma and reduced risk of atopy in childhood: Findings from a UK birth cohort

S. M. Collin, R. Granell, C. Westgarth, J. Murray, E. Paul, J. A C Sterne, A John Henderson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

50 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Studies have shown an inverse association of pet ownership with allergy but inconclusive findings for asthma.

OBJECTIVE: To investigate whether pet ownership during pregnancy and childhood was associated with asthma and atopy at age 7 years in a UK population-based birth cohort.

METHODS: Data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) were used to investigate associations of pet ownership at six time-points from pregnancy to age 7 years with asthma, atopy (grass, house-dust mite, and cat skin prick test) and atopic versus non-atopic asthma at age 7 years using logistic regression models adjusted for child's sex, maternal history of asthma/atopy, maternal smoking during pregnancy and family adversity.

RESULTS: 3,768 children had complete data on pet ownership, asthma and atopy. Compared with non-ownership, continuous ownership of any pet (before and after age 3 years) was associated with 52% lower odds of atopic asthma (odds ratio [OR] 0.48, 95% CI 0.34-0.68). Pet ownership tended to be associated with increased risk of non-atopic asthma, particularly rabbits (OR 1.61, 1.04-2.51) and rodents (OR 1.86, 1.15-3.01), comparing continuous versus non-ownership. Pet ownership was consistently associated with lower odds of sensitization to grass, house-dust mite and cat allergens, but rodent ownership was associated with higher odds of sensitization to rodent allergen. Differential effects of pet ownership on atopic versus non-atopic asthma were evident for all pet types.

CONCLUSIONS: Pet ownership during pregnancy and childhood in this birth cohort was consistently associated with a reduced risk of aeroallergen sensitization and atopic asthma at age 7 years, but tended to be associated (particularly for rabbits and rodents) with an increased risk of non-atopic asthma.

CLINICAL RELEVANCE: The opposing effects on atopy versus non-atopic asthma might be considered by parents when they are deciding whether to acquire a pet. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)200-210
Number of pages11
JournalClinical and Experimental Allergy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015


  • ALSPAC birth cohort
  • Asthma
  • Atopy
  • Pets


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