How much do you love your dog? Are the two of you really close? Really really close? So close you share a disease?
Well, a new study has revealed a shared risk of diabetes between dog owners and their pets.
Swedish researchers from the universities of Uppsala and Karolinska, and Liverpool, investigated whether dog and cat owners and their pets face a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
We’ve known for some time that dog owners and their pets share behaviour that affects health, such as how active they are, and overweight dogs often have overweight owners.
This new study went further and studied dog owners who have a pet with diabetes to see if they were more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than owners of a dog without the disease.
The owner-dog study group included 208,980 pairs, comprising 175,214 owners and 132,783 pets, with most of the pairs not having diabetes at the start of the study.
When diabetes was tracked in dog owners and dogs, it turned out around eight dog owners per 1,000 person years were at risk, and one dog per 1,000 dog years were at risk. So, compared with owning a dog without diabetes, owning a dog with the disease was linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes in their owner. The opposite was true too – dogs with diabetic owners were more likely to develop the disease.
No shared risk of diabetes was found between cats and their owners. So what could be causing the link between the type 2 diabetes in dog-owner pairs?
Well, it’s possible that owners and their dogs share a lifestyle that affects the risk of diabetes and may even promote the risk of disease in terms of dietary habits and being overweight.
It’s also probable that owners and dogs share the frequency and intensity of exercise, down to how often they go for a walk and for how long.
Moreover, they could well share exposure to known factors in the environment that promote diabetes, such as noise, pollution and particular chemicals.
What does this mean for dog lovers and their dogs?
Owning a dog with a diagnosis of diabetes increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
So having a check from your GP is a good idea.
And so is losing a bit of weight and upping your daily exercise.