Pet Care Can Boost Type 1 Diabetes Management
Including routine pet care in a child’s type 1 diabetes management plan may lead to improved blood sugar monitoring, and lower glucose levels.
Although one small study does not establish scientific truth, research results indicating pet fish care improves A1C levels makes sense. Being responsible for an animal - whether furry or fishy - cultivates a care routine reinforced by an emotional connection with the pet.
The research participants were 10 to 17 years of age and diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. They were:
- given a fish bowl, a Betta splendens (fish), and fish care instructions.
- instructed to feed the fish each morning and evening, and to check their blood sugar afterward.
- instructed to change a quarter of the fish bowl’s water once per week, and then go over their blood glucose logs with a parent or other caregiver.
After three months of fish related diabetes monitoring, the pet care participants lowered their A1C levels by 0.5 percent. Meanwhile, the pet-less control group had a 0.8 percent increase in their A1Cs.
“The [A1C] decrease was greater in the adolescents ages 10 to 13,” said researcher Dr. Olga Gupta. “Children in this age group are often beginning to seek independence from their parents, and were more eager to care for the fish than some of the older adolescents.”
The mother of one 12 year old participant recommends the pet care approach because it creates ownership not only of the pet, but of diabetes. When caring for the fish, her son started talking about his diabetes and monitoring his glucose more often—without even realizing it. The mother commented that when kids own their diabetes, it no longer owns them.
Since pet adoption may make life easier for families involved in diabetes care, the researchers plan on investigating further. They want to run a longer study and take a closer look at specific influences leading to blood sugar improvements such as parental involvement, routine, mood, and type of pet.