Having a dog with diabetes raises one’s risk of developing the disease too

UPPSALA, Sweden — Any dog owner will tell you there’s a special bond between humans and canines, but a new study is taking that idea to a whole new level. Researchers at Uppsala University report owners of a dog with diabetes are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes themselves compared to people without a dog. Interestingly, this connection does not appear in pet owners with other animals like cats.

Prior research discovered a possible connection between obesity in dog owners and their pups. So, this study’s authors set out to investigate if there is a similar connection regarding diabetes.

By combining data provided by a Swedish veterinary insurance register with additional Swedish population and health registers, researchers collected a significant amount of information on dog and cat owners in the country. In all, the team examined over 175,000 dog owners and close to 90,000 cat owners during this study.

Study authors focused on middle-aged or older pet owners and had their health records tracked for six years. The team then compared type 2 diabetes diagnoses for the owners against their pets’ canine and feline diabetes rates.

‘Common lifestyle factors influence risk fo diabetes both in dogs and their owners’

That analysis led researchers to conclude that owning a dog with diabetes puts one at a 38-percent higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes in comparison to non dog owners. Notably, study authors could not explain this finding by looking for clues in the owner’s age, sex, and socioeconomic status, or the breed, gender, and age of their dogs.

“Our results indicate that a dog with diabetes in the household might signal an increased risk of the dog owner developing type 2 diabetes as well. We have not had access to information about household lifestyle behaviors, but we think the association might be due to shared physical activity patterns and possibly also shared dietary habits as well as shared risk of adiposity. If shared exercise habits are indeed a key factor, it might further help explain why we don’t see any shared diabetes risk in cat owners and their cats,” says senior study author Beatrice Kennedy, a postdoctoral research fellow in medical epidemiology, in a university release.

“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,” concludes co-senior study author Tove Fall, Professor of Molecular Epidemiology at Uppsala University.

The study is published in BMJ.