Many people view their pets as important members of the family. Pets are more than loving companions. People with diabetes and other ailments have discovered pets have the power to improve their health.

  • Pets often encourage people to exercise. A dog needs to be walked and can become a fitness buddy. Walking a dog twice a day for 15 minutes is excellent exercise. People with diabetes are advised to exercise a minimum of 30 minutes a day, several times a week.
  • All types of pets help people combat depression. The limitations of diabetes might bring people down. Taking care of a cat, dog or other pet is a way to feel happy and useful. It distracts people from their own ailments and gives them something positive to focus on.
  • Pets are natural mood enhancers. From watching a fish swim to stroking a bunny, a pet reduces stress and boosts your mood. People with pets have lower cortisol levels, the hormone associated with stress and belly fat. They also produce more serotonin, the chemical associated with feeling good.
  • Studies reveal having a pet can help you manage your blood pressure. While it remains important to exercise and maintain a healthy weight, pet owners have lower heart rates and lower blood pressure at rest and during stress tests. People with diabetes have their blood pressure checking during routine visits. They should also use a blood pressure cuff to monitor their blood pressure levels at home.
  • People with diabetes frequently combat high cholesterol. Lower levels of triglycerides and cholesterol are noted in people who have pets. This might be attributed to increased exercise and other lifestyle differences. People with diabetes should still exercise regularly, eat healthy foods and take prescribed medication.
  • Having a pet can boost your heart health. People with diabetes have an increased risk of cardiovascular problems. A long-term study shows people who never had a cat were 40 percent more likely to die of a heart attack than those who had a furry friend. Also, people who have a dog after a heart attack have a much better survival rate.
  • Studies show people who have cats suffer fewer strokes. Often people with cats focus on their pet’s needs, which take them away the stress of their own personal concerns. Regular medical care, prescribed medications and counseling can also help ward off strokes.
  • Children who grow up in a house with a cat or dog have fewer allergies and a stronger immune system. People with diabetes have a compromised immune system. The disease can also strike future generations. For those who have children, owning a cat or dog can strengthen their immune system to possibly ward off the symptoms of diabetes in the future.
  • Some dogs can alert their owners with diabetes about a sudden decrease in their blood sugar levels. Chemical changes give off a scent the dogs can pick up. The dog offers warning so people with diabetes can have a snack to avoid an emergency. One in three dogs living with a person who has diabetes has this ability. More dogs are being trained by Dogs for Diabetics.

While pets might not be a total cure for people with diabetes, they help ward off certain health problems. From reducing stress to lowering blood pressure, pets have an important role in the lives of their owners with diabetes. Some dogs even know when their owner needs a snack to avoid low blood glucose levels.