Incorporating routine pet care into a child's diabetes self-care plan can significantly improve monitoring of the disease, resulting in lower blood glucose levels, claims a new study.
"Teenagers are one of the most difficult patient populations to treat because of the many psycho-social factors associated with that stage of life," said senior author Olga Gupta, assistant professor of pediatrics and internal medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
"We learned that instructing families to associate regular pet fish care with the child's standard diabetes care significantly improved their hemoglobin A1C levels."
The study followed the pet care and diabetes management tasks of 28 adolescents ages 10 to 17 with Type 1 diabetes mellitus.
The participants were provided a fish, a fish bowl, instructions for caring for the fish and recommendations to set up the fish bowl in their bedroom, if possible.
They were instructed to feed their fish in the morning and in the evening, checking their own blood glucose level each time.
After three months, the intervention group's A1C levels decreased 0.5% in comparison to their peers in the control group who experienced a 0.8% increase in A1C levels.
While a decrease in blood glucose levels was seen in all ages, the benefits of the behavioral intervention were more pronounced in the study's younger participants.
The study appeared in the Diabetes Educator