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Explained: The shared risk of diabetes between pet owners and their dogs, cats

Authors of the study, which was conducted at Uppsala University in Sweden in collaboration with three other universities, say that owners of a dog with diabetes are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than owners of a dog without diabetes.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi | Updated: December 18, 2020 3:02:41 pm
Explained: What a new study says about the shared risk of diabetes between dog and cat owners and their petsA significant finding of their study says that owning a dog with diabetes was associated with a 38 per cent increased risk of diabetes in the owner.(Thinkstock)

A new study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) says that diabetes in dogs may indicate an elevated risk of type 2 diabetes in their owners.

The study

The study included more than 175,000 dog owners and nearly 90,000 cat owners along with their dogs and cats. The dog and cat owners included in the study were all middle-aged or older at the start of the study and were followed through for a period of six years (January 1, 2007 – December 31, 2012).

Through this period, researchers analysed the incidence of type 2 diabetes in the pet owners and canine and feline diabetes in their pets.

So what does the research say?

Authors of the study, which was conducted at Uppsala University in Sweden in collaboration with three other universities, say that owners of a dog with diabetes are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than owners of a dog without diabetes. A similar shared risk of diabetes could not be detected for cat owners and their pets, the researchers have said.

What could explain this association?

A significant finding of their study says that owning a dog with diabetes was associated with a 38 per cent increased risk of diabetes in the owner. Beatrice Kennedy, one of the senior authors of the study was quoted as saying in a press release that the association of diabetes between dogs and their owners might be explained by physical activity patterns, possibly also by their shared dietary habits and adiposity. The WHO defines adiposity as having a body mass index (BMI) of over 30 kg per metre square.

Significantly, if the reason for the association of a shared risk of the disease between dogs and their owners is indeed a result of their physical activity patterns, it would also explain why the researchers did not see a shared risk association of the disease between cats and their owners. 📣 Follow Express Explained on Telegram

“Humans and dogs have lived together for at least 15,000 years, and continue to share their everyday lives for better or worse. In this unique study, we show that there might be common lifestyle and environmental factors that influence the risk of diabetes in the household, both in the dogs and in their owners,” Tove Fall, another author of the study was quoted as saying.

What is type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes and occurs when blood glucose or blood sugar is too high and is most likely a result of excess body weight and physical inactivity. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), this type of diabetes was seen only in adults but is now also occurring increasingly frequently in children. Overall, 422 million adults in the world have diabetes, including type 1.

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