Animals

As most of us know by now, this Chinese New Year marks the beginning of the Year of the Earth Dog in the Chinese zodiac.

In celebration of man’s best friend, we round up how your furry friend could give your health a boost in the coming year.

Reduced risk of allergies

Various studies have now found a link between owning a dog and a lower risk of allergies, especially in children.

Research presented in 2017 at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) Annual Scientific Meeting detailed how children of mothers who had been in daily contact with a dog while pregnant had a lower risk of eczema by age two, and that pet dogs could also have a protective effect against asthma symptoms.

Swedish researchers also found, after looking at more than one million Swedish children, that those who grew up with dogs had a 15% lower risk of asthma.

Better sleep

A small American study found that despite a dog’s snoring, sleeping with your pooch could actually help you get a better night’s sleep.

After recruiting 40 adults and their pets for the study, researchers at the Mayo Clinic in the United States found that regardless of the size of the dog, sleeping with a furry friend in the room helped some people sleep better.

However, having a dog on the bed didn’t have the same effect, with the team finding that those who let their canines get too cozy, did it at the expense of a good night’s sleep.

“Most people assume having pets in the bedroom is a disruption.

“We found that many people actually find comfort and a sense of security from sleeping with their pets,” commented the study’s author Dr Lois Krahn.

Improved mental health

After looking at 17 research papers, a British review published just this week found that having a pet could have a positive effect on managing long-term mental health conditions.

Owning a dog, or other animal such as a cat, goldfish or hamster, was found to be beneficial by helping to distract owners from the stress of having a mental health problem and helping to alleviate feelings of loneliness.

Dogs also had the added benefit of helping owners increase their level of physical activity through walking, which in turn can also help improve mental health and encourage social interaction with other dog owners.

Pet dogs have also been found to help support children when they are stressed, while a 2015 American study found that children who have a dog at home also have a lower level of anxiety than those who do not.

More exercise

It can be hard to find the motivation to get moving sometimes, but most dog owners will tell you, you don’t have much choice if your dog is asking for walks.

Many recent studies have also found that those with a dog do indeed get more exercise, with a dog being especially beneficial for helping seniors to get out of the house and get moving.

A British study published in 2017 found that seniors who walk their dogs clock up around 30 minutes more physical activity a day than non-dog owners, even during the colder, wetter months, with an Australian study also finding that dog walkers achieved at least 30 minutes of physical activity on more days per week than non-dog walkers, helping them to meet the 150 minutes of physical activity per week currently recommended for good health. – AFP Relaxnews

Our bodies have 3 billion genetic building blocks, or base pairs, that make us who we are.

And of those 3 billion base pairs, only a tiny amount are unique to us, making us about 99.9% genetically similar to the next human.

A recent TED talk by physicist and entrepreneur Riccardo Sabatini demonstrated that a printed version of your entire genetic code would occupy some 262,000 pages, or 175 large books. Of those pages, just about 500 would be unique to us.

This is because large chunks of our genome perform similar functions across the animal kingdom.

Take a look at how genetically similar we are to everything around us:


Humans are 99.9% similar to the person sitting next to us. The rest of those genes tell us everything from our eye color to whether we’re predisposed to certain diseases.


A 2005 study found that chimpanzees — our closest living evolutionary relatives — are 96% genetically similar to humans.


Cats are more like us than you’d think. A 2007 study found that about 90% of the genes in the Abyssinian domestic cat are similar to humans.

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Samantha Lee/Business Insider

When it comes to protein-encoding genes, mice are 85% similar to humans. For non-coding genes, it’s only about 50%. The National Human Genome Research Institute attributes this similarity to a shared ancestor about 80 million years ago.


Domesticated cattle share about 80% of their genes with humans, according to a 2009 report in the journal Science.


When it comes to insects’ DNA, humans have a bit less in common. For example, fruit flies share 61% of disease-causing genes with humans, which was important when NASA studied the bugs to learn more about what space travel might do to your genes.


And while the egg-laying and feathered body are pretty different from a human’s, about 60% of chicken genes have a human gene counterpart.


Even bananas surprisingly still share about 60% of the same DNA as humans!