Walking With Pets Is Good For Your Health

Photo by Robinson photography

“Mom, we’re going to be in great shape this summer after walking these guys every day,” my son said as we briskly walked our dachshund pups. My son was 11 and the dogs were about a year old at the time.

“Yes, that’s a good plan,” I agreed.

I was trying to rein in my chestnut-colored hound as he scampered after every moving object, whether it was a rabbit, bird or leaf.

“I’m going to teach them to jump through hoops this summer,” my son said enthusiastically.

“Seeing these guys jump through hoops would be amazing. I’ll be happy if they start walking beside me,” I said as I trotted after a curious pup.

My son was right about dogs promoting fitness and health. Pets can play a role in weight management.

Researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia reported that participants in a project that involved walking a dog 20 minutes per day, five times a week, lost, on average, 14 pounds in a year. The specially trained dogs were part of a program for disabled people offered through the university’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

Besides weight management, physical activity provides numerous health benefits for humans, from improving blood pressure to lowering stress. Just like two-thirds of the U.S. adult population that is considered overweight, more dogs are becoming obese.

Animals face similar health issues as humans when they gain weight, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and joint problems.

As with humans, a heavy coat on a dog can give a false impression of weight status. While determining if a dog is above or below weight is best left to veterinary professionals, you have a few clues. Can you feel the dog’s ribs easily? Does the dog have a discernible waist?

The Food and Drug Administration approved a prescription drug to manage obesity among dogs. To ward off use by their human friends, the drug carries a warning against human use, citing potential side effects such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, flatulence and vomiting.

Taking regular walks sounds more pleasant to me.

Consider these weight management tips. They work for humans and pets.

  • Eat smart. Eat moderate portions.
  • Play hard. Get some new toys, such as balls and Frisbees, and use them regularly. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days of the week for health.
  • Drink plenty of water. Keep your favorite container filled and nearby.
  • Accept praise as a reward and try not to beg for treats.

Here’s a tasty, nutritious beverage to enjoy after a walk with or without a pet. The recipe is from the California Department of Health Services.

Cantaloupe Cooler

1 ripe cantaloupe
2 1/2 c. cold orange juice
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
Crushed ice

Wash melon and cut in half. Scoop out the seeds, remove the rind and discard. Cut melon into 1-inch cubes. In a blender or food processor, blend the melon with 1/2 cup of orange juice until smooth. Pour puree into a pitcher and stir in remaining juice and sugar. Stir. Pour into glass filled with crushed ice.

Makes eight servings. Each serving has 70 calories, 18 grams of carbohydrate, 45 percent of the daily recommendation for vitamin A and 40 percent of the daily recommendation for vitamin C.