Cats, Not Dogs, May Exacerbate Minor Cystic Fibrosis Symptoms

Cats, Not Dogs, May Exacerbate Minor Cystic Fibrosis Symptoms

bad cat cystic fibrosisCystic fibrosis-patient pet owners should have little concern over symptoms from their favorite “Fido,” but those with cuddly “Whiskers” may want to beware. A new study from the Eudowood Division of Pediatric Respiratory Sciences, Institute of Genetic Medicine, and Division of Pediatric Endocrinology in Johns Hopkins, published in The Journal of Pediatrics, investigated a link between cat and dog ownership and cystic fibrosis symptom triggers.

Findings were collected from 703 cystic fibrosis patients recruited through the United States Cystic Fibrosis (US CF) Twin-Sibling Study. Patients were given questionnaires to assess the prevalence of cat and dog ownership in cystic fibrosis households, as well as respiratory symptoms. Further respiratory and infection outcomes were gathered from chart reviews and US CF Foundation Patient Registry data.

Of the 703 patients surveyed, 47% owned a dog, and 28% owned a cat. Owning a dog was not associated with adverse clinical outcomes, but owning a cat was associated with an increased risk for developing nasal polyps. The odds ratio was 1.66 for cat-owning cystic fibrosis patients compared to those without a cat. When patients owned both a dog and a cat, they were twice as likely to experience wheezing when compared to other patients.

In terms of infection, cats and dogs seemed to have no effect. Prevalence and age of contracting Pseudomonas aeruginosa or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus were no different among patients who either owned a dog or a cat or had neither.

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As always, correlation does not necessarily mean causation. To definitively link cat or dog ownership with increased cystic fibrosis symptoms, follow-up studies are necessary. There may also be a link between psychosocial benefits of pet ownership that must also be considered before making recommendations for or against pet ownership with cystic fibrosis children.


  1. Andrea says:

    When our boys were diagnosed,19 years ago, we already had a dog. At the time, we were told “no pets, ever” but, we deemed the “psychosocial” merits outweighed the devastation that would result from both the CF diagnosis and getting rid our beloved dog. Since then, we have had every animal except a cat (mom’s allergic) or a bird (carry respiratory disease)… but, we also believe in exposing our children to everything (including chicken pox, but that was early in the diagnosis, and mom didn’t know better — worked out well). Anyway, we have had the usual hospitalizations and complications, but both boys are adults and doing great.

  2. theresa says:

    if a child has cystic fibrosis and his parents bring in a lot of cats keeping these cats in their room and the childs room and the urin smell is so bad that it bothers everyone else in the house would it have anything to do with the boy with cystic fibrosis to loose lung compacity, or would it be the reason he coughs a lot?

    • Kaylee says:

      To Theresa,

      As to the scenario you suggested, I can’t say that would be the only reason for coughing but I can say that it would make the issue causing the coughing worse. Plus, if the parents aren’t cleaning after the cats, they may be cleaning less or not at all around the rest of the house. As such, more dust, ammonia from urine, and pet dander/hair will be everywhere including the lungs of the child with CF. SO if this is the case, then the answer to your question is definitely yes. It can be the reason for the cough or the reason the coughing is worse that if would be otherwise.

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