A study has found that children with a dog in the home had a significantly reduced risk of developing eczema at the age of four whereas children with a cat were more likely to have the ailment at the same age.

The study conducted on newborns, whose parents had allergies or eczema, by the University of Cincinnati Medical Center found that allergic children living dogs had only a 33 percent chance of developing eczema whereas those who lived with cats had a 54 percent chance of developing the chronic skin condition.

"It's speculative, but possible that the protective effect is due to a sort of natural immunotherapy where children who are exposed to dogs become tolerant over time in the same way that people on allergy shots develop tolerance to allergens," Dr. Tolly Epstein, the study author, at the University of Cincinnati Medical School said.

Epstein recommends parents considering a dog as a pet if the family has a history of asthma, allergies or eczema which places them into the high risk bracket.

Eczema is a form of dermatitis causing an itchy skin inflammation and may be associated with allergies (atopic eczema) or not (non-atopic eczema), Epstein added.