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Caring for Diabetic Pets Helps Humans Get Healthier
Date:5/28/2010

Owners learn more about the disease and how to prevent it, study finds

FRIDAY, May 28 (HealthDay News) -- Daniela Trnka had been living with type 1 diabetes for almost 20 years when she noticed telltale signs of the disease in her Siberian Husky, Cooper. He was thirsty, urinating often and at times, lethargic.

So she took out her blood sugar test kit, opened a fresh lancet and took a drop of his blood. Cooper's blood glucose levels were too high. A veterinarian confirmed it: Cooper had diabetes.

Now, the two are coping with the condition together. Trnka monitors Cooper's blood sugar levels and gives him insulin injections. Caring for her pet, Trnka says, has helped her pay better attention to her own health.

"Every time I think to check his sugar, I'm checking mine," Trnka said. "I think I'm more on top of managing my diabetes since I started taking care of him."

Trnka recently participated in a new Canadian study focused on pets with diabetes, which found that caring for a sick pet may improve the pet owner's health as well.

Lead study author Melanie Rock, an investigator at the Population Health Intervention Research Center, and a colleague interviewed 16 pet owners as well as veterinarians, a mental health counselor and a pharmacist about what it takes to take care of dogs and cats with the disease. About 1 in 500 dogs and 1 in 250 cats in developed nations are treated for diabetes, according to background information in the study in the May 17 issue of Anthrozoos.

Some participants said they had learned so much about the condition they felt better equipped to take care of a person with diabetes should they need to. Others, like Trnka, became more diligent about exercising daily for their pets' sake. "On a cold, windy day, [my dog] gets me outside in the fresh air because I know the exercise is good for him. And that's good for me too," she told the researchers.

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