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People and Dogs Can Achieve Weight Loss Together

Man and dog weight loss

If you and your dog are both overweight or obese, a joint effort at weight loss may be just what the doctor - and veterinarian - ordered. A Kansas State University veterinarian and assistant professor of clinical sciences, Dr. Susan Nelson, says that dogs and their owners can both benefit greatly physically and mentally from a weight loss program that they do together.

The health hazards associated with humans who are overweight or obese are well known—increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, some cancers, arthritis, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and many others. But overweight dogs are at risk for serious health conditions as well, including many of the same issues that can affect their owners, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, and arthritis, as well as breathing problems, skin disorders, and back problems, among others.

Since both people and dogs need exercise and physical activity helps with weight loss, what better way to lose weight than to exercise together.

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According to Dr. Nelson in a news release from Kansas State University, exercising with your dog can achieve much more than weight loss. Dogs require exercise to relieve their energy, much like people can use exercise to relieve stress. “Exercising with your pet also promotes the human-animal bond,” she says. Dogs that get adequate exercise are more content and less likely to be destructive.

Dog owners who want to try a weight loss effort with their pets need to consider the animal’s age, weight, breed, and general health before starting an exercise program. Generally, Dr. Nelson notes that working dogs and larger dogs have greater energy needs than smaller or toy breeds. Dogs should get two exercises sessions daily, ranging from 15 to 60 minutes.

If you are considering running or jogging with your pet, medium and large dogs usually do better at long-distance running than do smaller dogs. Smaller dogs typically perform better when walking or running short distances. Swimming is an excellent non-jarring exercise for both people and dogs, although this is not a convenient option for many people. If possible, however, it can be an occasional change in your weight loss efforts.

Make sure both you and your dog are in shape before starting an intense exercise and weight loss program. A visit with your doctor (and a veterinarian) is recommended. All dogs, but especially those that are overweight, are at risk for overheating and dehydration. Also be aware that hot and/or rough surfaces can burn or otherwise harm the pads on your dog’s paws. Do not feed your dog one hour before or after intense exercise, as it can cause the dog’s stomach to bloat or twist. If you want to help ensure both you and your dog achieve weight loss, it may be best to skip any after-exercise treats as well.

Kansas State University news release, September 8, 2009