In a sample of young people with type I diabetes, those who actively helped care for family pets were 2.5 times more likely to have well-controlled blood sugar levels, according to a study published April 2016 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE. The paper is called “Association between Responsible Pet Ownership and Glycemic Control in Youths with Type 1 Diabetes.”
Attributes that aid in the effective self-management of type I diabetes, such as family cohesion and self-regulatory behavior, are similar to those required for responsible care of household pets. To investigate a possible positive association between pet care and self-care in chronic illness, the authors of the present case-controlled study surveyed 23 young people with type I diabetes on responsible pet ownership and analyzed the results with respect to successful self-management of their illness.
The researchers found that diabetic children who actively care for at least one household pet were 2.5 times more likely to maintain healthy blood sugar levels than children who did not care for a pet. The authors were careful to distinguish actual care responsibilities from the level of attachment to the pet, as some children professed love for their pet but were not involved in its care. The authors postulate that certain factors, for example the establishment of household routines and the promotion of feelings of responsibility, that help young people to care responsibly for pets may also help them to control their blood sugar levels.
While the present study does not adjust for potential cultural differences in attitudes toward pets or diabetes care, and the study design does not show causality, the authors suggest that their findings may help to identify attributes that support young people in self-management of type I diabetes.