Paws for Wellness A happy and healthy pet starts with a plan!

Pets as Probiotics?

Puppy running through mudWe’ve all heard the expression that you have to eat a pound of dirt before you die, but what does this really mean? No, don’t pick up your spoon and start eating the dirt from your garden, but consider that consuming some “germs” or dirt is actually good for your health.

As it turns out, our endless need to be clean by vacuuming, scrubbing, and disinfecting our homes; using hand sanitizer at every turn; and using antibacterial soaps is actually doing us more harm than good. We have in essence become “too clean”. By removing all of this “dirt” and the bacteria and fungi that lives within it, we are removing the very things that help to build and maintain strong immune systems.

Those of us who have pets, especially dogs, living in our homes, may be at a health advantage over homes that are pet-free. Dogs roll and walk in who knows what when they are out romping in the park, muck about in streams, rivers, and lakes, sniff at everything, and eat things I wouldn’t consider picking up, let alone put in my mouth! And then they come bounding into the house and track endless numbers of “germs” into our homes, onto our couches, beds, and chairs and of course give us slobbering kisses! This may sound terrible, but it actually is a good thing for our health!

Studies show that children growing up in homes with dogs have a lower risk for asthma and allergies. Other studies have shown that Amish children growing up close to barnyard animals had lower rates of asthma, and they tended to suffer from fewer immune-related illness than children living off farms. This doesn’t mean that we all need to move to a farm, but we can help train our children’s growing immune system by having pets in our homes.

The immune system has to learn which bacteria are harmful and which are not. When we live in a sterile, bacteria-free environment we deprive our immune system this opportunity to learn, causing our bodies to overreact to harmless substances later on in life making us sick. A perfect example of this is allergies. Allergies are the result of our immune system attacking something that is not dangerous, because our bodies haven’t been exposed to enough of these harmless substances.

Essentially, having pets adds a lot of diversity to our indoor “microbiome”, or the microscopic organisms living in our homes. By increasing this diversity of “germs” (bacteria and fungi), pets seem to balance the good and bad bacteria in our homes. Essentially, pets become the “probiotics” of our homes.

So, next time you want to pull out the vacuum cleaner or scrub those floors till they shine, stop and take a break! Take Fido out to the park so he can roll around in the dirt and bring some more microbes into your home! You and your children’s immune system will thank you.


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Meet Our Team

  • Dr. Laura  Neuhaus (Raiff) Photo
    Dr. Laura Neuhaus (Raiff)


    Dr. Laura Neuhaus is a graduate of the University of Missouri - College of Veterinary Medicine. Following graduation, she completed an emergency and specialty medicine internship at VCA Emergency Animal Hospital and Referral Center in San Diego. She enjoys ophthalmology and has a special interest in avian medicine. Her hobbies include gardening, hiking, and spending time outdoors. She is the proud parent of a cat and 2 parrotlets.
  • Dr. Mitchell  Meyerhoeffer Photo
    Dr. Mitchell Meyerhoeffer


    A Virginia native, Dr. Mitchell Meyerhoeffer (Dr. M is fine!) started his career in the veterinary field in high school at Chesterfield Technical Center's veterinary science program. He completed his undergraduate degree in Biology at Virginia Commonwealth University while working as a veterinary assistant in a specialty and emergency hospital. Dr. M then completed his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine training at Virginia Tech, enjoying the hiking and outdoor scenery in Blacksburg when he could ...
  • Beth   Photo

    Veterinary Technician

    Beth joined the GAH staff in April 2010. Originally from Maryland, she now lives in the Gloucester area. She has been working as a Licensed Veterinary Technician since graduating from Blue Ridge Community College in 1989. Away from work, she enjoys reading and working her dogs in obedience and agility classes. She has two dogs, three cats, four ferrets and three reptiles.
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    Veterinary Assistant

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    Treatment Team Lead

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    Veterinary Assistant

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    Veterinary Assistant

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    Kennel Care Team Lead

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    Kennel Care Team

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    Kennel Care Team

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    Kennel Care Team

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    Professional Groomer

    I'm Aidan, and I'm not your typical groomer. I'm a passionate animal lover with a heart full of love for our furry friends. Every day, I get the incredible opportunity to work my magic as a groomer at the renowned Grafton Animal Hospital. I can't express just how much I adore what I do. It's not just a job; it's a calling. I find immense joy in transforming your beloved pets into the best versions of themselves. Whether it's a shaggy dog that needs a fresh haircut, a cat in need of a spa day, or ...
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    Practice Manager

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  • Ricky   Photo

    Front Desk Supervisor

    Ricky came to Grafton Animal Hospital in April of 2011. He was a little shy at first, but once he became more comfortable with us, he became one of the team. Ricky is a Congo African Grey Parrot. We think he is around 10 years old, but no one is sure. He will sometimes put on a show of whistling, talking, singing and dancing, and imitating sounds like telephones and coughing. Visit our Facebook page for an opportunity to see Ricky in action.
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    Staff Meeting Coordinator

    Lucy joined the Grafton Animal Hospital reception team as the new Noisemaker bird in September 2016. After losing our long-time mascot, Croaker, earlier that year, we learned of a young Quaker parrot available for adoption at the Peninsula Regional Animal Shelter and decided she might be a good fit for the clinic. Lucy quickly made herself at home and before long, she was showing the staff who was really in charge. She is generally pretty friendly, so you will often see the staff holding her. ...
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    Daisy & Duke

    Staff Meeting Coordinators

    Daisy and Duke joined the GAH team in June of 2009. They were stray kittens that needed a home, and Squeaks was in need of a brother or sister. After some convincing, we were able to keep both. If you haven’t seen our kittens roaming the clinic, it’s because they are still learning their way around. For now, they are great morale boosters that keep us entertained during our staff meetings.
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    Grooming Manager

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    Kennel Care Team

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