Get Moving With Your Dog

FOCUS ON PETS

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The tendency is to be a little tired after the holidays. I hope we will be lively enough to ring in the New Year in style. With 2005 we have another new beginning. The New Year is always a time for a fresh start, a time to work on changes in our lives that we have been wanting for awhile, but just could not quite make them happen.

I am a great believer in resolutions. Although I do not always keep them, it makes me aware of what I want to change and some exciting new things I want to tackle in the New Year. My list this year is taking shape.

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Teco leads the way to good health with Joanna and Carl Stottler. Teco is a rescue Chihuahua/miniature pinscher mix and enjoys walks and trips to the dog park. Though he is small, he has lots of energy.

The news lately has been filled with newfound dangers in taking some of the wide variety of painkillers. And most of us struggle, at least a little, with our weight. There is a miracle cure for joint pain and excess weight. It has not been found to be harmful in any way and it is 100 percent effective -- to varying degrees. You guessed it -- eat less and exercise more. So why am I writing this in a pet column?

A program called People and Pets Exercising Together (P-PET), sponsored by Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Hill's Pet Nutrition, put together a program that looks at the role of companion dogs as social support for their owners for weight loss and weight maintenance. During the period of the study, the people and their pets dined together, exercised together and were weighed together. Study results proved the positive effect of the teamwork. The participating teams not only took off weight, but they kept it off.

Exercise is known to be a natural pain reliever. Those who keep their bodies moving, in spite of some discomfort, have less pain and less need for pain remedies. Dogs suffering from arthritis and joint problems stay more limber and mobile with regular exercise. Seems like a natural solution to this concern over pain relievers.

Here are some facts on obesity from the P-Pet program. Obesity is the most common nutritional disorder among people and pets. It is caused by the same factors, increased consumption of calories and decreased physical activity. Obesity has reached epidemic proportions among people and pets.

An extra 5 pounds on a dog that should weigh 17 pounds or an extra 3 pounds on a cat that should weigh 10 pounds is comparable to an extra 50 pounds on a person who should weigh 170 pounds.

The health risks of obesity are similar in people and pets: increased risk of heart disease, skeletal problems, breathing problems, diabetes and arthritis. All of those problems are in some way relieved by taking medication. Or, in most cases, they could be relieved by exercise and weight reduction. What a choice. Also, obesity can significantly reduce life expectancy in people and pets.

More than 30 million dogs and cats -- 25 percent of the pet population -- in the United States are overweight or obese. With pets, 10 percent over the ideal body weight is considered overweight and 20 percent over is defined as obese. More than 60 percent of adult Americans are overweight or obese and the rate of obesity has increased 61 percent between 1991 and 2000. More men than women are overweight, but more women than men are obese. As reported on the news, an increasing number of children and teens are overweight, resulting from too much junk food and too much sitting in front of a computer or TV.

This P-Pet study was a combination of exercise and improved eating habits. In one year of the weight loss study, the dogs lost an average of 15 percent of their initial body weight while their owners lost an average of 5 percent. The big gain from the study was the confidence and the motivation to stick to specific diet and exercise strategies with their dogs and succeed at weight loss not just for the moment but for the long term.

The study demonstrated that dogs provide the companionship, social support and motivation to stick with the program.

A fact sheet from P-PET was the information source for this article.

For a good beginning to a great new year, get moving -- with your dog. You both will be healthier and happier. Happy New Year. For tips from the experts on how you and your pet can lose weight together, visit www.petfit.com.

Christy Wrather is a columnist for the Payson Roundup. She can be reached by e-mail at cpwrather@earthlink.net or by snail mail at HC1 Box 210, Strawberry, AZ 85544.

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