Dogs are awesome. That’s a pretty well-established fact. Having a dog can enrich your life in so many ways, like keeping you more physically active, reducing your stress and probably most importantly, by making you feel a little less lonely. Because let’s face it: Dogs are love sponges. Some dogs can even detect seizures or cancer, sniff out bombs, help the blind…you get the idea. Dogs are amaze. And now science has discovered yet another way that dogs are living up to their rep as man’s best friend.

A new study published just this week has found that dogs help lower the risk for childhood asthma. The study, which took place in Sweden, is the largest study ever to examine the relationship between dog ownership and kids with asthma. The scientists analyzed data of more than 1 million children (whoa, that’s a lot of kids!), all born between January 2001 and December 2010. According to their findings, kids who had pet dogs in the first year of life had a 15 percent lower rate of asthma than those who did not grow up with a dog.

That’s a pretty big deal. Asthma is a chronic disease of the airways that causes breathing difficulties. Children with asthma experience coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and chest pain. The flu, or even a simple cold, can be dangerous for asthma sufferers. Not only is it the most common chronic childhood disease, but it’s also the number one cause of missed school days overall. Nine people die from asthma every day in this country. Getting all these kiddos some dogs sounds like a great idea right about now, doesn’t it?

The study’s coordinator, Tove Fall, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Uppsala University in Sweden, can’t say for certain whether or not adopting a dog is the answer. She hopes to expand the study to try and find the reason for the differences between dog and non-dog households. She speculates the reduced cases of asthma may have something to do with bacterial fragments in the air or possibly just the fact that kids with dogs spend more time outdoors. She says the findings may be related to what researchers call the “farming effect,” which refers to the fact that children who grow up on farms have been found to have a 25 percent lower risk for developing asthma than kids who grew up in a more urban atmosphere.

Whatever the explanation, we’re thinking the dogs in our lives deserve an extra biscuit or two. And hugs (lots and lots of hugs), just for being their wonderful selves.

[Image via Shutterstock.]