Prenatal dog-keeping practices vary by race: Speculations on implications for disparities in childhood health and disease

Jerel M. Ezell, Andrea E. Cassidy-Bushrow, Suzanne Havstad, Christine L.M. Joseph, Ganesa Wegienka, Kyra Jones, Dennis R. Ownby, Christine Cole Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Objective: There is consistent evidence demonstrating that pet-keeping, particularly of dogs, is beneficial to human health. We explored relationships between maternal race and prenatal dog-keeping, accounting for measures of socioeconomic status that could affect the choice of owning a pet, in a demographically diverse, unselected birth cohort. Design: Self-reported data on mothers' race, socioeconomic characteristics and dog-keeping practices were obtained during prenatal interviews and analyzed cross-sectionally. Robust methods of covariate balancing via propensity score analysis were utilized to examine if race (Black vs White), independent of other participant traits, influenced prenatal dog-keeping. Setting: A birth cohort study conducted in a health care system in metropolitan Detroit, Michigan between September 2003 and November 2007. Participants: 1065 pregnant women (n=775 or 72.8% Black), between ages 21 and 45, receiving prenatal care. Main Outcome Measures: Participant's self-report of race/ethnicity and prenatal dog-keeping, which was defined as her owning or caring for ≥1 dog for more than 1 week at her home since learning of her pregnancy, regardless of whether the dog was kept inside or outside of her home. Results: In total, 294 women (27.6%) reported prenatal dog-keeping. Prenatal dog-keeping was significantly lower among Black women as compared to White women (20.9% vs 45.5%, P<.001), and remained significantly different even after propensity score analysis was applied. Conclusion: Findings suggest that there are persistent racial differences in dog-keeping not fully explained by measures of socioeconomic status. Racial differences in prenatal dog-keeping may contribute to childhood health disparities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)104-109
Number of pages6
JournalEthnicity and Disease
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Allergy
  • Asthma
  • Dogs
  • Human-animal bond
  • Pet-keeping
  • Racial disparities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology


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