Losing weight together with your dog is beneficial for both

by Danielle Maris

If either you or your dog starts a weight loss program, it will likely result in weight loss for both. A research group from the Veterinary Faculty of Utrecht University conducted a study, published in Frontiers in Veterinary Medicine, in which both overweight humans and dogs participated. The research group found that active weight loss in an overweight human or dog resulted in passive weight loss for the other.

Overweight and obesity are detrimental to the health of humans and dogs. Obesity increases the risk of developing multiple diseases, such as diabetes mellitus, osteoarthritis and especially in humans vascular disease. Furthermore, it affects the quality of life because not all activities that one might like to do are still possible.

Overweight is a major problem in the western world. In the Netherlands, 52.5% of adults are overweight and 18.8% are obese according to the World Health Organization. A lot of dogs are also overweight, up to 40% of dogs in developed countries. It seems that dogs have a higher risk of being obese if their owners are obese/overweight.

While weight loss in an overweight human or dog can be very beneficial for the quality of life, losing weight is easier said than done. Therefore, the research group from Utrecht University started a research to see if losing weight in dogs and owners could be combined. To do this they recruited people who wanted to lose weight and divided them in two groups. Group 1 only received instructions on how to lose weight for themselves, while group 2 was instructed on how to lose weight for themselves and their dog.

The research group found that active weight loss in an overweight human or dog resulted in passive weight loss for the other.

As it turned out, owners in the second group lost 2,6% of their weight, compared to 2,3% in the first group. Not surprisingly, the dogs in the second group also lost more weight; 3,7% of their body weight compared to 1,2% in the first group. These results were not significant, but indicate that losing weight together with your pet might be the way to go.

In previous research it was found that people with dogs had 50 minutes more physical activity per week than people without dogs. Also, dogs got more exercise if their owners participated in a weight loss program. The authors of the Utrecht University research suggest that not only the obvious increase in physical activity contributes to the weight loss, but also the social support that owners claim to receive from their pets. The obligation they feel towards their dog and the process of losing weight they share with their dog might help with sticking to the weight loss program.

Image credit: Total Shape