Almost everyone who has ever owned a pet knows that opening the door after a hard day, and being greeted by a beloved animal, is a feeling like no other. Pets give unconditional love. They also focus our attention on the present moment as we care for their day-to-day needs and interact with them in playful ways that lighten our spirit. Keeping us present with them, leaves little time to worry about the past or the future. For people with chronic health issues, such as diabetes, pet ownership can be especially beneficial. Both the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Institute of Health (NIH) have conducted studies showing that pet owners exhibit decreased blood pressure and reduced stress levels.
According to the American Diabetes Association, consistent exercise can lower blood glucose and improve your A1C levels. With physical activity, your body becomes more responsive to insulin. Your cells also remove glucose from the blood using a mechanism totally separate from insulin during exercise. Owning a pet such as a dog, often encourages owners to get their own exercise because dogs need to be walked several times a day. Dogs also encourage owners to get creative about ways to exercise such as having them run a long side a bike or run while their owner roller blades or skates.
Coping with diabetes can sometimes lead to depression. Pets can combat these feelings by providing companionship and connecting us with others as we walk our dogs around the neighborhood or venture out to the dog park or community gatherings centered around animals. A review in the British Medical Journal reported that dogs act as “social catalysts” encouraging greater interaction between people, alleviating feelings of loneliness.
Amazingly, the newest breed of service dogs have been trained to detect when their owners blood sugar levels drop into dangerous territory, offering more freedom and better health to those with Type 1 diabetes. Dogs4Diabetics (D4D) is a non-profit based out of Concord, California. This cutting edge research and training company was founded by Mark Ruenfencht, himself a diabetic. Mark made the connection between a dog’s ability to sense low blood sugar when his dog awoke him one night when his own blood sugar was plummeting. D4D dogs receive highly specialized training which allows them to alert their handler when they detect a scent on the breath or the sweat of someone whose blood glucose is dropping. The dogs graduate when they can detect the low blood sugar of anyone from across the room with 95% accuracy . This research is still in it’s infancy but has already proven to be life changing for many diabetics.
No one has to tell you how amazing your pet is – now you know even more reasons why this relationship is like no other!