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Pets Help Owners Lose Weight

Posted Oct 27, 2006

Findings from a 12-month combined people and pet weight management study will be presented Friday at the 2006 National Prevention Summit held by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, DC. The People and Pets Exercising Together (P-PET) study by Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Hill's Pet Nutrition,demonstrates that people and their pets are both more successful in staying with a weight loss program when they exercise together. Dr. Dennis Jewell, a companion animal nutrition expert at Hill's Pet Nutrition, will present data showing the positive relationship owners developed with their pets over the course of the year-long study as well as the benefit of the pet in being a partner during weight loss.

Approximately 65 percent of adult Americans are now overweight or obese(1), and an estimated 48 million cats and dogs in the U.S. are overweight or obese -- that's 40 percent of the pet population!(2) To combat the obesity epidemic, both public health professionals and veterinarians endorse a proactive approach that includes adoption of healthy changes in diet and physical activity. The P-PET program is proven to be a safe, effective, and enjoyable way for people and pets to lose weight and maintain weight loss. By participating in a weight loss program with your pet, you can improve the quality of life for you and your pet through increased exercise, a strengthened human-animal bond, and a fun and motivating way to trim down together.

Dr. Robert Kushner, Medical Director, Wellness Institute, Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Professor of Medicine, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine explains, "We devised a state-of-the-art weight management program based on previous studies that show that people are more effective at losing weight and maintaining that weight loss when they do it with a friend or companion. The P-PET study proves that a faithful pet provides effective social support for losing weight and maintaining weight for up to one year."

The 12-month P-PET study consisted of three groups of overweight participants: a dog/owner group (36 people and their dogs), a dog-only group (53 dogs), and a people-only group (56 people). The purpose of the study was to compare the efficacy of weight loss programs for dog-only and people-only groups to that of a combined dog/owner weight loss program for both weight loss and weight maintenance.

During the study, dogs were fed a low-fat, nutritionally balanced food, Hill's Prescription Diet® r/d® Canine, which is specially formulated to help dogs lose weight while keeping them feeling satisfied. In addition, pet owners with dogs in the study were provided with a suggested exercise plan (i.e., 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity at least three days per week) and a regular weigh-in schedule. When the ideal body weight was achieved, the dogs were changed to Hill's Prescription Diet® w/d® food until the 12-month study was completed. People were provided with meal plans and pedometers and were instructed on personality lifestyle pattern behavioral strategies to control dietary calories and increase physical activities.

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 5.5 percent of their initial body weight) and dogs lost an average of 12 pounds (approximately 15.9 percent of their initial body weight). The maximum weight loss for dogs was 35 pounds; for people, the maximum loss was 51 pounds. Participants gained the confidence and the motivation to stick to a specific diet and exercise strategies and succeed at weight loss-not just for the moment but for the long term.

Roseann and her dog, Spats, one of the many people and pet pairs who succeeded at losing weight on the P-PET program, learned first-hand how working together could help them both get fit and drop pounds, while spending quality time together. Roseann lost 30 pounds and Spats lost 13 pounds -- that's 15 percent of his initial body weight!

"Caring for and loving my dog is what motivated me to be a part of this program," says Roseann. "It is a real lifestyle change. We worked together, lost weight and kept it off over the course of a year, and now there's no turning back!"

The combined dog/owner weight loss program was found to be more effective at maintaining participation than the program in which dogs dieted separately: 80 percent of the dogs in the combined dog/owner group completed the study, versus 68 percent of the dogs-only group. The combined dog/owner group reported a greater improvement in their quality of life (P<0.05) and the quality of life of their pets. Two-thirds of the increase in physical activity in the combined dog/owner group was obtained by engaging in dog-related activities.

"People really enjoy spending time with their dogs, and our P-PET study demonstrates that dogs provide the companionship, social support, and motivation to stick with the program until the pounds come off and stay off," says Dr. Jewell. "This just might be the ultimate buddy system for winning the battle of the bulge!"

(1) U.S. Department of Health and Human Services - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved on October 2, 2006 from http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/obesity/faq.htm.

(2) "Overweight Pets Are on the Rise," Veterinary Economics.

August 1, 2005.

SOURCE Hill's Pet Nutrition, Inc.

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