Prenatal pet keeping and caregiver-reported attention deficit hyperactivity disorder through preadolescence in a United States birth cohort

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BMC pediatrics


BACKGROUND: While the keeping of pets has been shown to protect against childhood allergic disease and obesity, less is known regarding potential associations of prenatal pet keeping and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). We sought to examine the associations between prenatal dog or cat keeping with caregiver-reported ADHD in preadolescents in the Wayne County Health, Environment, Allergy and Asthma Longitudinal Study (WHEALS) birth cohort (N = 1258).

METHODS: At an interview with the caregiver at child age 10-12 years, caregivers reported if the WHEALS child had ever been diagnosed with ADHD. Similarly, during an interview with the mother prenatally, pet keeping (defined as dog or cat kept inside ≥1 h/day) was ascertained. Logistic regression models were fit to examine the association of prenatal pet keeping (dog keeping and cat keeping, separately) with ADHD.

RESULTS: A subset of 627 children were included in the analyses: 93 who had ADHD and 534 with neurotypical development. After accounting for confounders and loss to follow-up, maternal prenatal dog exposure was associated with 2.23 times (95% CI: 1.15, 4.31; p = 0.017) greater odds of ADHD among boys. Prenatal dog keeping was not statistically significantly associated with ADHD in girls (odds ratio = 0.27, 95% CI: 0.06, 1.12; p = 0.070). Prenatal cat keeping was not associated with ADHD.

CONCLUSIONS: In boys, but not girls, maternal prenatal dog keeping was positively associated with ADHD. Further study to confirm these findings and to identify potential mechanisms of this association (e.g., modification of the gut microbiome, exposure to environmental toxicants or pet-related medications) is needed.

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