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Owners of a dog with diabetes are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than owners of a dog without diabetes. No shared risk of diabetes could be detected for cat owners and their cats though. 

These novel findings were from a register-based study conducted at Uppsala University, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Karolinska Institutet and the University of Liverpool.

Published in The British Medical Journal, the study combines a Swedish veterinary insurance register with Swedish population and health registers and covered more than 175,000 dog owners and nearly 90,000 cat owners.

Increased Risk

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.
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The main finding was that compared with owning a dog without diabetes, owning a dog with diabetes was associated with a 38 percent increased risk of type 2 diabetes. 

“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 behaviours, 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", says Beatrice Kennedy, a postdoctoral research fellow in medical epidemiology at Uppsala University, one of the senior authors of the study.

Canine diabetes generally requires lifelong insulin therapy. Diabetes is more commonly diagnosed in older dogs, and in females that have not been spayed (castrated) during their prolonged dioestrus phase. 

Common Factors

Diabetes in female dogs has also been linked to overweight, and occurs more often in some Swedish hunting dog breeds.  

“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,” comments Tove Fall, Professor of Molecular Epidemiology at Uppsala University, the other senior author of the study.

It is possible that dogs with diabetes could serve as a sentinel for shared diabetogenic health behaviours and environmental exposures. This project received financial support from the Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning (FORMAS), the Agria and Swedish Kennel Club Research Foundation, and the Göran Gustafsson Foundation. Professor Tove Fall is also holder of a European Research Council starting grant.

 *This article can be found in the June 2021 issue of Pets Magazine