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Pet Care Can Help Children Manage Type 1 DiabetesJuly 20, 2015
Older children with Type 1 diabetes often want to manage the illness themselves, but they can run into problems if they take multiple daily insulin injections but don’t check their glucose and take insulin before each meal and before bed. Would it help, a Dallas physician wondered, if she gave patients a pet they had to feed twice a day — and they developed a habit of checking their glucose at the same time?
Dr. Olga T. Gupta, an assistant professor at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, recruited 29 patients, ages 10 to 17, with Type 1 diabetes. Sixteen got a fishbowl; a $5 gift card to buy a betta, or Siamese fighting, fish; and instructions to feed the fish in the morning and at night. They were also given instructions to check their blood glucose at the same time. Once a week, they were to change the fishbowl water and review their glucose logs with a parent.
The other patients did not get a fish but were promised a gift card later. The findings were published in Diabetes Educator in June.
After three months, the fish owners had slightly improved glucose control, as indicated by lower hemoglobin A1C values, while those without a fish had worsened.
Children in that age group tend to see an increase in A1C values over time, Dr. Gupta said, “so to bring that down even a small amount is a pretty big triumph.”