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Sure, blame the dog

September 04, 2006|Hilary E. MacGregor | Times Staff Writer

THE shedding and chewing of shoes may be the least of the family dog's transgressions.

Asthmatic children who lived with dogs coughed more, produced more phlegm and had more bronchial responses to air pollutants than those with no pets, or those who lived only with cats, according to research that appeared last week in Environmental Health Perspectives.

Dr. Rob McConnell, a professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and the study's lead author, speculated that the increased asthmatic response of children with dogs is due to higher levels of endotoxin -- a part of the cell wall of certain bacteria commonly found in dirt. Endotoxins are known to produce inflammation of the lungs and can be tracked in by dogs from outside.

But McConnell cautioned that there might be other explanations for the study's findings. Children with dogs, for example, might be more likely to play outside and thus be more exposed to air pollution. "It may have nothing to do with the dog," he said.

So don't take any hasty, pet-related actions.

"I think that if a child has asthma, they should have a pediatrician with a knowledge of asthma following them," he said. "Any decision should be based on a case by case basis."

hilary.macgregor@latimes.com

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