Pets Help Kids with Type 1 Control BG

Younger kids who care for pets appear to manage their diabetes better.



Many adults clean up their act when a baby is on the way. Now there’s evidence that children with Type 1 also act more responsibly when given the responsibility of another’s care.

A team of researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center wanted to test whether glycemic control would improve in children with Type 1 if they were given the responsibility of caring for pets. According to a New York Times blog post, Dr. Olga Gupta and others gave 16 kids with Type 1 each a fishbowl, a $5 gift card to buy a betta fish, and instructions to test their blood glucose when they fed the fish—once in the morning and again at night. They were also asked to clean the fishbowl out every week and go over their blood glucose log books with parents. 13 other children with Type 1 were told to continue their normal testing routine with the promise of a gift card at the end of the study. All the children in the study were between 10 and 17 years of age, and they started with A1C scores greater than 8.5.

After three months, those who cared for fish showed an average 0.5 decrease in score while those promised a gift card saw their A1C climb by 0.8. Researchers also noticed that children aged 10-13 exhibited a greater response to the fish intervention than their older counterparts.

It can be hard for children to transition into being responsible and independent when it comes to their diabetes care, but it appears that giving them buddies to care for as they care for themselves might be helpful.

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Travis served as a staff writer for Insulin Nation and Type 2 Nation in 2015. Previously, he was a staff writer for Insight, a high school newspaper, as well as a copywriter for The Emersonian, Emerson's yearbook.