Think your dog might have diabetes? Check with your vet.

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While you certainly can’t catch diabetes from a pet, having a dog with the disease could put you at greater risk of developing human diabetes, a new study finds.  

Swedish researchers, mostly from Uppsala University, released their findings last week. The topline result: Parenting a dog with diabetes is linked to a 38-percent increase of the risk of the human developing Type 2 diabetes—when compared to owning a healthy dog.    

The scientists found no such connection between cats and their owners, The Guardian reports. Researchers examined the pet insurance records and health statistics of 208,980 owner-dog couples and 123,566 owner-cat pairs—all Swedish residents. 

Teen girl sits next to yellow lab and embraces them
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One of the researchers, Beatrice Kennedy, told The Guardian that her study complements research that shows that overweight pet owners are more likely to have dogs who are also overweight. If the dog and owner share dietary and physical traits, like obesity and exercise, then they also might both be more susceptible to diabetes, she says. 

“The diabetes of the dog could be a marker of something important going on,” Kennedy told the newspaper. “We know that there are quite strong emotional bonds between dog owners and their dogs. Perhaps that bond extends to other health behaviours and risks.” 

She told The Guardian that dogs and their owners being exposed to the same “pollutants and chemicals” could also account for the link. A reminder: This was only observation work, the scientists didn’t nail down a definite underlying cause for the dogs and their humans both having diabetes. 

Cats, meanwhile, tend to exercise independently from their humans, which might be why there’s no diabetes link to their owners. Feline diabetes, however, is still a common condition for cats.  

What Are the Signs My Dog Might Have Diabetes?

Because canine diabetes is a common endocrine disease that affects many older dogs, watch out for these potential signs so you can get your pup adequate treatment right away. Early diagnosis and treatment from a vet is critical to helping dogs with diabetes continue to live their best lives.

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Changes in appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Cloudy eyes or changes in vision

As always, talk to your veterinarian if your dog is experiencing any of these symptoms or if you have questions about any changes in their habits or behavior. While this list of signs is a good starting point to help guide your conversation with the vet, it's possible your dog may be suffering from some other illness that shares similar symptoms, and additional tests and observations may be required for your vet to make an accurate diagnosis.