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Your Skin Can Reveal How Much You Love Dogs

Update Date: Apr 19, 2013 12:26 PM EDT

Staring into a set of big brown puppy eyes might be enough to make dog lovers squeal and gush over the animal, nicknamed a man's best friend. Now, according to a new study, scientists can actually measure just how much love humans give to their dogs and vice versa. This new study looked into the amount of dog bacteria found on human skin, which can get transferred due to constant hugging or licking from the dog. The study discovered that humans might actually have more germs in common with their dogs than with other humans within the household.

"One of the biggest surprises was that we could detect such a strong connection between their owners and pets," Rob Knight, a researcher at the University of Colorado Boulder, said. "In fact, the microbial connection seems to be stronger between parents and family dogs than between parents and their children."

The researchers of the study gathered their data by swabbing tongues, foreheads, palms, paws, and even feces in their quest to see just how much people loved their pets. The data set composed of bacteria gathered from 60 families, 17 of those were households with children. The total numbers included 159 people and 36 dogs. The researchers were not surprised to find that humans and dogs shared similar microbes within their bodies since they all share and touch certain surfaces, such as table tops, floors and doorknobs. However, the researchers were surprised at how much more bacteria humans and dogs shared when compared to two humans in some cases. Furthermore, the researchers, headed by CU-Boulder doctoral study, Se Jin Song, found that couples shared more germs with one another when there was a dog present versus couples that did not have a dog. Sharing germs with a dog might not necessarily be a bad thing.

"Recent studies link early exposure to pets to decreased prevalence of allergies, respiratory conditions and other immune disorders in later stages of development, and skin microbes in particular are now receiving more focus as important players in immune regulation," the researchers wrote.

Other than human and dog comparisons, researchers found that parents and children older than three shared the most bacteria from the tongue and gut regions. Fathers in particular had the weakest levels of microbial connection with their infants when it came to comparing bacteria found in the foreheads and palms. This study's findings add on to previous studies that have looked into how bacteria can either help or hinder bodily functions. For example, the bacteria found in both the parents' and infants' gut region are known to help with digestion and diseases. However, there could also be the transmission of deadly bacteria between humans and dogs, but that was not found in this study.

The study was published in the journal, eLIFE.

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