How is a dog like a cup of yogurt? Well, canines might also have a "probiotic effect" on humans, researcher Kim Kelly explains in a post from the University of Arizona. Science suggests owning a dog can be healthy—for instance, kids in families with dogs generally have lower allergy and asthma rates, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. A new study aims to find out why. "Microbes in our gut can have profound effects on our health, both our mental health as well as our physical well-being,” Kelly tells Arizona Public Media. The question, she says: "Is there something in the transfer of these microbes between dogs and humans that is actually making us healthier?"
In order to investigate the matter, Kelly's team plans to lend out canines for three-month periods to study participants, with help from southern Arizona's Humane Society. Participants needn't fear losing their new companions: They can adopt the dogs after the study, which will involve following both the dogs' and the humans' health through blood and skin samples, Arizona Public Media notes. Researchers will also keep tabs on participants' mental health. In case you're tempted, be advised that participants must be older than 50, since researchers are taking a particular look at our bacteria "as we age," one says. (Click to read about more ways pets make you healthier.)