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If you’re a dog owner, I don’t have to tell you about the special bond that exists between people and their dogs. Your dog is your companion, your child and your protector, all wrapped into one. There isn’t much you wouldn’t do for them — but sharing a diabetes diagnosis may not be what you expected.
Your dog can develop some of the very same diseases, and diabetes is the most common of these. It can occur in dogs as young as 18 months, although it’s most commonly seen between seven and 10 years of age.
Recent research has shown that, when it comes to diabetes, there’s an intimate connection between you and your dog.
Owners of diabetic dogs are more likely to develop diabetes
According to a study by researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden, dog owners whose pets are diabetic have a higher chance of developing type 2 diabetes themselves.
The researchers tracked the health of close to 210,000 owner-dog pairs for six full years, from January 1, 2007, through December 31, 2012.
They identified persons with type 2 diabetes by examining publicly available health records and dogs with diabetes by looking at veterinary insurance records.
After controlling for various factors, including age and gender, as well as the breed of dog, they discovered that people who owned a dog with diabetes had a 38% greater likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes than those who owned a dog without diabetes.
So, what’s the connection?
The study authors point out that this is an observational study, meaning that no cause-and-effect relationship was determined between your dog having diabetes and you developing the disease.
But they do have some thoughts about why this might be the case (and, by the way, no such connection was found between cats and their owners).
Researcher Dr. Beatrice Kennedy said: “We have not had access to information about household lifestyle behaviors, but we think the association [with dogs] might be due to shared physical activity patterns and possibly also shared dietary habits as well as shared risk of adiposity. If shared exercise habits are indeed a key factor, it might further help explain why we don’t see any shared diabetes risk in cat owners and their cats.”
In other words, when people are being physically active, particularly outdoors, dogs often accompany them and, therefore, also benefit from the exercise. And, when humans are sedentary, their dogs tend to be inactive as well.
Cats, on the other hand, run on their own agenda. Even if their owner is a couch potato, chances are they are getting quite a bit of exercise, running around the house.
Also, since data on dogs with diabetes was obtained from veterinary insurance records, the researchers note that the results reflect only pet owners who had the financial means to purchase veterinary insurance, something that many pet owners do not have.
Dogs provide early diabetes detection
In their conclusion, the authors of this study note that “It is possible that dogs with diabetes could serve as a sentinel for shared diabetogenic health behaviors and environmental exposures.”
In other words, if your dog is diabetic, or shows any symptoms of diabetes, it might be time for you to get screened for the disease and start making lifestyle changes, like walking or exercising more to benefit both you and your dog.
Signs of canine diabetes include:
- Extreme thirst and increased urination
- Sudden appearance of cataracts in the eyes
- Weight loss, despite eating well
Dr. Tove Fall, the study’s co-author, adds this thought: “Humans and dogs have lived together for at least 15,000 years and continue to share their everyday lives for better or worse.”
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Dogs and Their Owners Share a Risk of Developing Diabetes — neurosciencenews.com
Diabetes risk is shared between people and their dogs — Medical News Today
Dogs with type 2 diabetes ‘raise’ owner’s risk — Diabetes.co.uk
Dogs with diabetes — Diabetes.co.uk