Can’t wait to take off those sweaters and jackets? Swimsuit season will be there soon! You know you are ready, but to your dismay there are some extra layers that have miraculously landed on your stomach (and we don’t mean layers of fabrics). In your state of shock and depression you reach out to your dog Max for some comfort and realize you are having trouble lifting him onto your lap. Your dog, not unlike you, has put on some serious pounds. You push and prod to find Max’s ribs but the only rib you feel is the one from last night’s Chinese dinner.
Well, the good news is you’re not alone. The bad news is it’s not healthy for either one of you to be overweight or obese as the repercussions can be very serious, even deadly. Obesity has become such a problem in humans and animals that Hill’s Pet Nutrition Inc. is sponsoring a study called “Project PPET.” The Study led by Dr. Robert Kushner of the Wellness Institute in Chicago is well underway and should yield some very interesting results. The study consists of two groups. The first group is comprised of overweight and obese people concerned about the weight of their dogs. Those without dogs will be placed in a people-only weight management program, and those with dogs will be placed into a people and pet management program (PPET). Local veterinarians will decide which overweight dogs they feel would benefit from participating in the program. The study will span over a 12-month period and will be testing three hypotheses:
- Weight loss in people will be more effective when pet dogs are included as social support.
- Weight loss in overweight pet dogs will be more effective when the dogs are included in a weight management program for their owner.
- Maintenance of weight loss at one year will be more effective for the people and dog combined treatment group compared to the people only and pets only treatment groups.
Over the course of the 12-month study, both people and dogs lost weight and kept it off: people lost an average of 11 pounds (approximately 5 percent of their initial body weight) and dogs lost an average of 12 pounds (approximately 15.6 percent of their initial body weight). The maximum weight loss for dogs was 35 pounds; for people, the maximum loss was 51 pounds.
Anyone who owns a pet knows that keeping your pet’s weight within a healthy range can become quite a challenge, especially if you live in a city environment. I very often find myself wishing for a yard in which to send out my two dogs to play. In small city apartments, dogs as well as humans have limited space and while taking your dog for a walk is indeed healthful for both of you and your pet, there are limited places and spaces where a dog can run free off the leash to really burn up those calories.
In New York City there are sectioned-off areas where dog exercise and socialize with other dogs. Andrea Penoff lives on the Upper East Side and says that her two Maltese are paper-trained and in the winter she doesn’t take the dogs out because they get too cold. She claims that while her dogs are gaining weight, she is as well. Andrea says she finds a drop in both her wright and the weight of the dogs in the warmer weather due to the simple fact that they are both more active. While both Andre and I pray for a yard, dogs in the country may seem to have it better on the surface, but let’s reexamine the facts. You let your dog out to play, gleefully watching him out the window while you happily put your frozen pizza in the microwave. Not only are you not getting any exercise, but very often a dog will go out into the yard only to lay there sedentary waiting for their favorite playmate- YOU. The best way to solve this problem: get out there with your pet. Create an exercise program that requires you and your pet to get and stay thin together.By Carrie Sunday