It seems like you find out something new about your dog every day, from a new personality trait to new way they like to play with you. Well, take that one step further, with a study that has recently revealed that dogs can actually help you to lose weight. With over 60 percent of adult Americans being overweight or obese, and an estimated 30 million cats and dogs in the U.S. being overweight or obese, that’s 25 percent of the population that can benefit from reading the results of this amazing find.
The People and Pets Exercising Together (P-PET) study by Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Hill’s Pet Nutrition, has demonstrated that people and their pets can be more successful in staying with a weight loss program when they exercise together. That’s not much different than the common theory that people are more apt to lose weight or stick to an exercise program when they partner with a friend or family member, someone who seeks a similar goal. Dr. Robert Kushner, Professor of Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine said, “We devised a state-of-the-art weight management program based on previous studies that show that people are more effective at losing weight and maintaining that weight loss when they do it with a friend or companion. The P-PET study proves that a faithful pet provides effective social support for losing weight and maintaining weight for up to one year.”
This is great news for the abundance of overweight people in the United States, and since so many of those people already have a dog as the family pet, they can get started on the right track to achieving their weight loss goals. The P-PET study took place over the course of one year, and consisted of three groups of overweight participants: a dog/owner group (36 people and their dogs), a dog-only group (53 dogs), and a people-only group (56 people), in which the dogs were fed a low-fat, nutritionally balanced food, Hill’s Prescription Diet® Canine r/d®. The owners of the dog/owner group were provided with a suggested exercise plan, consisting of 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity for at least three days per week, and a regular weigh-in schedule. When the dogs reached their ideal body weight, their food was switched to Hill’s Prescription Diet® w/d® food for the remainder of the twelve month study.
Throughout the study, the owners were provided with meal plans and pedometers and were given strategies to change their lifestyle pattern and behavioral strategies to control their calorie intake. Over the course of the year long study, the participants gained the motivation and the discipline to stick to their particular diet and succeeded at their overall weight loss goals. The people lost an average of 11 pounds, which was approximately 5 percent of their initial body weight, and the dogs lost an average of 12 pounds, which was approximately 15.6 percent of their initial body weight.
Dr. Jennifer Jellison, DVM, Practicing Veterinarian at Minerva Park Veterinary Clinic in Columbus, Ohio, explained why the study has a positive outcome: “People love their pets and don’t want to let them down. They also want their pets to live long and healthy lives. Obesity contributes to a shortened life span, heart disease, diabetes, and osteoarthritis in pets, so keeping your pet at a healthy weight is one of the ways that pet owners can strengthen the human-animal bond and help ensure that their beloved pets will be around for years to come.”
One of the participants in the study, Roseann along with her dog Spats, managed to lose 30 pounds, while Spats lost 13 pounds. “Caring for and loving my dog is what motivated me to be a part of this program,” says Roseann. “It is a real lifestyle change. We worked together, lost weight and kept it off over the course of a year, and now there’s no turning back!”
With a statement like that, it’s no wonder that the results of the study revealed a positive way for pets and their owners to lose weight and live a healthy lifestyle.