Does Your Dog Have Diabetes? You May Be at Higher Risk of Diabetes, Too

People with diabetic dogs were 32 percent more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than those with healthy dogs. Cat owners showed no such link.

If your dog has diabetes, you may be at higher risk of developing the disease yourself. Those are the findings of a new study in BMJ that examined pet insurance data in Sweden along with medical records from the Swedish National Patient Register.

Researchers followed 208,980 dog owners and 123,566 cat owners in Sweden for an average of six years. Compared with dog owners without Type 2 diabetes, owners with the disease were older, more often men and less likely to have a university degree. Pet-owner pairs in which only the pet had diabetes were more often female, and more likely to have dogs that belonged to breeds with a high risk for the disease — for example, Border collies, Samoyeds and toy poodles.

After additional adjustment for socioeconomic and other factors, the researchers found that people who owned diabetic dogs were 32 percent more likely to develop diabetes themselves than those who owned dogs that did not have diabetes. The association was weaker after adjusting for the owner’s age, and was not present in cat owners.

The lead author, Beatrice Kennedy, a postdoctoral researcher at Uppsala University, said that shared lifestyle factors between dog and owner may account for the association, but that the study was observational so could not prove cause and effect, and the exact reasons for the link are unknown.

Nevertheless, she said, “If your dog develops diabetes, maybe it’s a good opportunity to assess your own health habits and see if there’s any room for improvement.”

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