Cats, Not Dogs, May Exacerbate Minor Cystic Fibrosis Symptoms

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by Maureen Newman |

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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.