Incorporating structured pet care into an adolescent’s diabetes self-care plan can significantly improve their management of blood glucose levels.
A study conducted by UT Southwestern Medical Centre assessed 28 adolescents with type 1 diabetes. They were aged between 10 and 17.
Participants were randomly assigned either to an intervention group in which they took care of a fish, or a control group in which usual care was administered.
The first group were provided a Betta splendens fish, a fish bowl and instructions on caring for the fish, as well as how to set it up in their bedroom, if this was possible.
Their instructions were to feed the fish in the morning and evening, while checking their blood glucose levels at the same time. At the end of each week, the adolescents reviewed their blood glucose levels with a caregiver, which coincided with changing one-fourth of the fish bowl water.
The intervention group’s HbA1c levels decreased by 0.5 per cent after three months compared to the group receiving normal care. The study’s younger participants, between 10 and 13, demonstrated a greater response.
The researchers now aim to identify which mechanisms led to this improvement in glycemic control, and how parental involvement and the type of pet affected the results.
The results of this study appear in the Diabetes Educator.

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