RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—The prominent British Medical Journal recently reported on a small study finding that people with diabetes actually learn more about the condition and healthier living when they treat a pet for the same condition. And even if you're not living with diabetes, there are other good reasons to consider caring for an animal that needs special help.
THE DETAILS: For the study, published in Anthrozoös: A Multidisciplinary Journal of The Interactions of People and Animals, researchers interviewed healthcare professionals and 16 diabetic pet owners who treated their dogs or cats for the same condition. The study authors found is that people living with diabetes who treat their pet for the same condition blur the lines between caring for the disease in their pet and in themselves. People started using what they learned to treat their pet to better treat their own disease. The flip side is true, too: When people started noticing signs of diabetes in their pet, they used what they'd learned in their own treatment experience to help the pet.
WHAT IT MEANS: Spending time with animals improves our health. From relieving stress to producing health-boosting oxytocin, the love hormone, caring for pets offers many benefits. And as in the case of this study, sharing the same medical condition can actually help improve treatment for the person and for the pet. "Caring for a diabetic pet is really very similar to caring for a diabetic person. Insulin levels have to be managed," explains Kim Butler, spokeswoman for the rescue group Animal Coalition of Delaware County, located just outside of Philadelphia. "Depending on the severity of the condition, sometimes all it takes is a modified diet to maintain good health; otherwise, daily injections of insulin might be required, in addition to a modified diet."
In addition, regular monitoring of blood glucose levels is required—just as in people—and can be accomplished either at the veterinarian's office or by use of the blood glucose meters and test strips you see advertised on television.