Owning a dog with diabetes may increase your risk of type 2 diabetes, new study finds

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  • Dog owners and their pets share certain health behaviours, such as physical activity levels which could impact the overall health of owner-dog pairs
  • A recent study found that individuals who own a dog with diabetes are at a greater risk of developing type two diabetes 
  • The researchers, however, found that the prevalence of diabetes in cats and their owners was significantly lower


A recent study has revealed that owning a dog with diabetes increased the owners risk of developing type two diabetes by 38%. 

Previous studies have found an association between obesity in dog owners and their pets. This is likely because two may share similar health and lifestyle behaviours, such as physical activity levels. 

Diabetes in dogs and cats

Owners of a dog with diabetes are more likely to develop type two diabetes themselves, according to a new study conducted by researchers at Uppsala University, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Karolinska Institutet and the University of Liverpool. 

The study, which was recently published in The BMJ, gathered a sample of 208 980 owner-dog pairs and 89 944 cat owners by combining the largest veterinary insurance database in Sweden with the nation’s official health and population registers. 

Over a period of six years, the researchers investigated the prevalence of diabetes in dog owners and subsequent diabetes in dogs and cats, according to the study. 

The researchers found that owners of dogs with diabetes were associated with a 38% increased risk of developing type two diabetes, compared to owners with dogs who did not have diabetes. 

Reasons for the association 

Dietary habits of dog owners may influence those of their pets, the researchers state. This is due to portion control, the frequency of eating and whether owners give scraps to their pets in addition to dog food, the study concluded. 

The researchers also explained an association between the weight of a dog owner and energy intake of their pet.

“The use and timing of dog treats have been associated with the weight of owners, suggesting an interplay between the weight of a dog owner and the energy intake in the pet,” the researchers said. 

It is also plausible that dog owners and their pets share exercise habits which could be an important factor in the research findings, the study states. 

Cats are different

Although the feline diabetes phenotype resembles that of humans with type two diabetes, the study states that there was no detected association between diabetes in cat owners and their pets. 

Studies on the prevalence of diabetes in cat owners and their pets are limited, according to the researchers. However, some risk factors for feline diabetes include being confined indoors, being overweight and eating predominantly dry foods. 

The researchers state that one explanation for the lower prevalence of diabetes in cat owners and their pets is because owner-cat pairs share fewer health and lifestyle habits compared to dog owners. 

This finding aligns with a recent study that applied a dog ownership relationship scale to cat ownership, according to the researchers. 

“Although emotional closeness and perceived costs were similar between these type of pets, everyday interactions of physical activity and travelling with a pet were more common for owner-dog pairs,” the researchers conclude.

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