Pets as Probiotics?

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. Gross   Photo
    Dr. Gross

    Lead Veterinarian

    Veterinarian in Yorktown VA Dr. Gross is a 1983 graduate of Auburn University where he obtained a BS degree in zoology and a D.V.M. degree from the School of Veterinary Medicine. Upon graduation, he moved into the Dare/Grafton area of York County. From 1983-1984, he was a full-time associate in a small animal practice in Newport News. From 1984-1986, he worked at a 24-hour veterinary hospital in Richmond, gaining experience in emergency as well as outpatient medical practice. From 1986-1994, he ...
  • 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.
  • Caroline  Parkhill Photo
    Caroline Parkhill

    Practice Manager

    Caroline joined the GAH team in July 2018. Caroline grew up in Virginia but left home to explore the world; she has lived in Germany, Korea, Oklahoma, California, and Texas. She recently returned home to Virginia to be closer to her family. Caroline graduated from the University of Maryland and worked in the IT field for 15 years before following her passion and joining the veterinary field. She enjoys gardening and cooking in her spare time, as well as relaxing with her crew of senior dogs and ...
  • 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.
  • Lindsay   Photo

    Veterinary Technician

  • Bari   Photo

    Veterinary Assistant

  • Amanda   Photo

    Veterinary Assistant

  • Vanessa   Photo

    Veterinary Assistant

  • Georgia   Photo

    Veterinary Assistant, Receptionist

  • Stephanie   Photo


  • Tracy   Photo


    Profile coming soon!
  • Carolyn   Photo

    Professional Groomer

    Carolyn has been with us as a groomer since 2001. Carolyn was born and raised in Upstate New York. She has a two-year certificate of completion in Computer Science from B.O.C.E.S. in Flint, NY. She also attended F.L.C.C. in Canandaigua, NY for Business Administration. Her main interests are her son, Matthew, and her daughter, Kelly. She really enjoys grooming pets, from the challenging ones to the cooperative ones…dogs and cats alike! Seeing how great they look and feel after a bath and clip is ...
  • Alex   Photo

    Kennel Attendant

    Profile coming soon!
  • Brian   Photo

    Kennel Attendant

  • Felicia   Photo

    Kennel Attendant

    Profile coming soon!
  • 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.
  • Lucy   Photo

    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. ...
  • Daisy & Duke   Photo
    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.