Article

Companion Dogs as Weight Loss Partners

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Abstract

Dog ownership is common in many of our patients' households. Domestic dogs promote a sense of well-being and contribute toward improved health. Family dogs have also been shown to provide social support and increased opportunities for recreational walking. Given the importance of social support and physical activity in weight loss, "Do you own a dog?" or "Have you considered buying a dog?" should be included in the medical history for our overweight and obese patients.

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... Dog walking increased, though not significantly more than participants who were asked to maintain their current dog walking (27). Kushner (19) tested whether a combined dog and owner weight loss intervention stimulated weight loss. The dog and owner intervention consisted of groups where participants received a weight loss intervention and dog walking strategies. ...
... This intervention was compared to a condition that consisted of non-dog owners who received the weight loss intervention. Participants significantly increased their physical activity, with no differences between conditions (19). ...
Article
Purpose: Encouraging dog walking may increase physical activity in dog owners. This cluster-randomized controlled trial investigated whether a social networking Web site (Meetup™) could be used to deliver a multicomponent dog walking intervention to increase physical activity. Methods: Sedentary dog owners (n = 102) participated. Eight neighborhoods were randomly assigned to the Meetup™ condition (Meetup™) or a condition where participants received monthly e-mails with content from the American Heart Association regarding increasing physical activity. The Meetup™ intervention was delivered over 6 months and consisted of newsletters, dog walks, community events, and an activity monitor. The primary outcome was steps; secondary outcomes included social support for walking, sense of community, perceived dog walking outcomes, barriers to dog walking, and feasibility of the intervention. Results: Mixed-model analyses examined change from baseline to postintervention (6 months) and whether change in outcomes differed by condition. Daily steps increased over time (P = 0.04, d = 0.28), with no differences by condition. The time-condition interaction was significant for the perceived outcomes of dog walking (P = 0.04, d = 0.40), such that the Meetup™ condition reported an increase in the perceived positive outcomes of dog walking, whereas the American Heart Association condition did not. Social support, sense of community, and dog walking barriers did not significantly change. Meetup™ logins averaged 58.38 per week (SD, 11.62). Within 2 months of the intervention ending, organization of the Meetup™ groups transitioned from the study staff to Meetup™ members. Conclusions: Results suggest that a Meetup™ group is feasible for increasing physical activity in dog owners. Further research is needed to understand how to increase participation in the Meetup™ group and facilitate greater connection among dog owners.
... Indeed, several studies have reported cardiovascular benefits [46], especially in the elderly hypertensive and diabetic population [47][48][49][50][51]. Pet ownership during pregnancy, in the first year of life, and during childhood seem to prevent the development of food allergies [52] and reduce the risk of wheezing (associated with cat ownership) [15], atopic asthma, and aeroallergen sensitization (grass, house dust mite, cat and dog allergens) [14,[53][54][55]. Dogs also increase opportunities for recreational walking, thereby reducing the risk of obesity [56][57][58][59][60]. Pet ownership or simply being in contact with animals seems to provide social support, reduce distress and anxiety and decrease loneliness and depression [10] particularly among older individuals [61], children [62,63], and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder [64], immunocompromised individuals [65], and homeless people [66]. ...
Article
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Pet ownership is common in modern society. In Portugal, 38% and 31% of all households own at least one dog or cat, respectively. Few studies have ascertained the knowledge of pet owners on pet ownership and zoonoses, and none have been carried out in Portugal. The aim of the present study was to assess household knowledge and practices related to pet ownership and zoonoses in northern Portugal. A face-to-face questionnaire was completed by 424 pet owners, from November 2019 to February 2020. Most respondents (97.2%) considered pets as an important part of the family, especially women (p = 0.036); 73.1% allowed their pets to live an indoor/outdoor life; 41.3% denied sharing the bed with their pets while 29% assumed they did it daily; 20.3% reported never kissing their pets/pets licking their faces. Furthermore, 73.6% considered animals as potential sources of human diseases, but only 25.9% reported knowing the definition of zoonoses; 96.9% considered the role of veterinarians important in protecting public health. The low level of knowledge of pet owners and the occurrence of high-risk behaviors indicates a need to strengthen communication between veterinarians, physicians, pet owners, and the general public towards reduce the risk of acquisition and transmission of zoonoses.
... Indeed, several studies have reported cardiovascular benefits [29], especially in the elderly hypertensive and diabetic population [30][31][32][33][34]. Pet ownership during pregnancy, in the first year of life and childhood seem to prevent the development of food allergy [35] and reduce the risk of wheezing (associated with cat ownership) [11], atopic asthma and aeroallergen sensitization (grass, house dust mite, cat and dog allergens) [10,[36][37][38]. Dogs also increase opportunities for recreational walking, reducing the risk of obesity [39][40][41][42][43]. ...
Preprint
Pet ownership is common in modern society. In Portugal, 38% and 31% of all households own, at least, one dog or cat, respectively. Few studies have ascertained the knowledge of pet owners about pet ownership and zoonoses, and none of them was carried out in Portugal. The aim of the present study was to assess household knowledge and practices related to pet ownership and zoonoses in the North of Portugal. A questionnaire was completed by 424 pet owners, during November 2019 to February 2020. Most respondents (97.2%) considered pets as an important part of the family, especially women (p = 0.036); 73.1% allowed their pets free access to indoors; 41.3% denied sharing the bed with their pets and 29% assumed they did it daily; 20.3% reported never kissing their pets/pets licking their faces; 73.6% considered animals as potential sources of diseases to humans, but only 25.9% reported knowing the definition of zoonoses; 96.9% considered important the role of veterinarians in protecting public health. The low level of knowledge of pet owners and the occurrence of high-risk behaviors indicate a need to strengthen communication between veterinarians, physicians, pet owners and the general public to reduce the risk of acquisition and transmission of zoonoses.
... Numerous studies have confirmed that dog owners are more physically active than those without dogs, but also that not all pet dogs are walked regularly (for a review of this evidence, see [4]). More recently attention has turned to exploring the barriers and incentives to regular dog walking using both qualitative and quantitative research methods [5] in order to identify modifiable factors that can be used in interventions to encourage dog walking [6][7][8][9]. Most research to date has been conducted in North America (e.g. ...
Article
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Background Regular physical activity is beneficial to the health of both people and animals. The role of regular exercise undertaken together, such as dog walking, is a public health interest of mutual benefit. Exploration of barriers and incentives to regular dog walking by owners is now required so that effective interventions to promote it can be designed. This study explored a well-characterised cross-sectional dataset of 276 dogs and owners from Cheshire, UK, for evidence of factors associated with the dog being walked once or more per day. Results Factors independently associated with daily walking included: number of dogs owned (multiple (vs. single) dogs negatively associated); size (medium and possibly large dogs (vs. small) positively associated); and number of people in the household (more people negatively associated). Furthermore, a number of factors related to the dog-owner relationship and the dog’s behaviour were associated with daily walking, including: having acquired the dog for a hobby (positively associated); dog lying on furniture (positively associated); dog lying on laps (negatively associated); growling at household members (negatively associated); and playing chase games with the dog (negatively associated). Conclusions These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that the strength and nature of the human-dog relationship incentivises dog walking, and that behavioural and demographic factors may affect dog walking via this mechanism. Future studies need to investigate how dog demographic and behavioural factors, plus owner behavioural factors and perceptions of the dog, influence the dog-human relationship in respect to the perceived support and motivation a dog can provide for walking.
... Health related benefits of companion animal ownership Pets can help reduce stress and lower blood pressure (eg. patting a dog or watching fish swim peacefully in an aquarium) • Pet owners show improved recovery rates from heart surgery Adults and the elderly, in particular those who are stressed, and/or have cardiovascular disease Physical fitness (primarily for dog owners)[38][39][40] • Dogs are great exercise partners and provide social support • Dog owners are more physically active (primarily though walking dog) andhave reduced risk of obesity and better physical health All ages, particularly those who are physically unfit or overweight AAT increased attendance, decreased violent behaviour, and increased language and social skills in children with ADHD • In clinical settings, AAT reduces stress in children People of all ages with various disorders ...
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Numerous studies indicate that companion animal ownership is associated with a range of physical, psychological and social health advantages, yet there is little discussion around the practical ways to integrate companion animals into healthcare and health promotion. This article provides a brief summary of the health related aspects of companion animal ownership, and suggests ways in which general practitioners can integrate discussions regarding pet interaction into everyday practice. The subject of companion animals can be a catalyst for engaging patients in discussions about preventive health. General practitioners are in an ideal position to understand the human-pet dynamic, and to encourage patients to interact with their pets to improve their own health and wellbeing. Questions relating to companion animals could be asked during routine social history taking. The knowledge gained from this approach may facilitate more tailored patient management and personalised lifestyle recommendations.
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Data
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The domestic dog is one of the most commonly owned, and widely utilized, animals in today's society. This paper provides an overview of research that has explored the relationship between the domestic dog and human well-being. The article initially concentrates on the value of dogs for physical health in humans, exploring the evidence that this species can prevent us from becoming ill, facilitate our recovery from ill-health, and even serve as an early warning system for certain types of underlying ailment including cancer, oncoming seizures and hypoglycaemia. The paper then examines the relationship between dogs and psychological health in humans, exploring the ability of this species to aid the disabled and serve as a therapist to those in institutional settings such as hospitals, residential homes and prisons. Weaknesses in the existing research in this area are highlighted throughout the article. Taken together, the studies reviewed suggest that dogs can have prophylactic and therapeutic value for people.
Fitness Unleashed! A Dog and Owner's Guide to Losing Weight and Gaining Health Together
  • M Becker
  • Kushner
Becker M, Kushner R. Fitness Unleashed! A Dog and Owner's Guide to Losing Weight and Gaining Health Together. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2006.