Children have much to gain from raising a pet at home, especially if they are involved in its care. According to research, this may be particularly useful for those with diabetes type 1. Around 1.25 million children in America have this chronic condition.
Those affected by it have to keep their blood glucose levels in check at all times. But, for children that have to live with this condition, it can be quite challenging.
According to researchers from the University of Massachusetts Medical School, self-regulatory behavior and social support are critical for managing diabetes.
That is why they believe that there could be a connection between these important attributes and having a family pet. In fact, they believe that caring for a pet can have huge benefits for kids that have to learn to manage their condition.
According to the senior author of the research, Dr. Olga Gupta, teenagers are the most difficult patients to treat. They have countless psychological problems that are associated with that particular stage in life.
Moreover, with the help of the research, Dr. Gupta claims that they have learned that requiring families to let their children care for a pet, proved significantly beneficial for managing their condition.
In fact, the children seemed to have improved their hemoglobin A1C levels.
The research that was published in the Diabetes Education focused on the effects of pet care on the disease’s management. Twenty-eight volunteers agreed to participate from the age of 10 to 17.
The patients already had type 1 diabetes mellitus.
This condition affects their body’s ability to produce insulin and convert the sugar into usable energy.
The research on pet care focused on instructing the volunteers to care for a pet properly. They recommended that the patients set up a fishbowl in the room if it were possible.
The patients had to take good care of the fish and feed it every morning and evening. Every time the patients had to feed the fish, researchers measured their blood sugar levels.
Jeanette Claxton, a mother of a 12-year-old participant, said that her son never had the opportunity to take care of a pet. But, if it seems useful, she is absolutely up for it. The children, on the other hand, claimed that the fish became a part of their family.
They even named them, read to them, feed them, and watched TV with them. In fact, the mother says that her son was not even realizing how much he was talking about his condition more and more often. He became far more open.
”That is why I highly recommend this kind of an approach to any other families that wish their children would take better care of their condition”, said Claxton.
After 3 months of constant monitoring, the participant’s A1C levels significantly decreased by 0.5% compared to the other central group who experienced a 0.8% increase in their A1C levels. Moreover, children of all ages saw a significant decrease in their blood glucose levels.
However, younger children obtained the most pronounced behavioral changes.
Children at this age are constantly seeking independence from their parents, said Gupta. Therefore, they are more eager and excited to care for a pet than their parents.
While the role of the parents, in this case, is to establish a solid routine so that they can constantly monitor their child’s glucose levels.
Finally, this research is supported by grants from the Partnerships for Cure, Deadman Family, National Institute of Child Health, Dedman Family, and Human Development.