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If your lovable pooch is looking a little too rotund, the next trip to the vet may include putting Fido on a doggy diet—which could help you shed some pounds, too.

December 15, 2014

If your lovable pooch is looking a little too rotund, the next trip to the vet may include putting Fido on a doggy diet—which could help you shed some pounds, too.

Researchers found that when dog owners are told their pups are dangerously overweight, the diagnosis gets them both moving.

For the study, a group of scientists, veterinarians, and physicians at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland, tracked 32 dog owners and their overweight or obese pooches for three months after the owners learned their dog needed to lose a few. The owners were split randomly into two groups: in one, doctors told the owners to pay attention to what their dog ate and to monitor its health. The other group received an exercise prescription—give the dog at least 30 minutes of exercise per day, preferably by walking him.

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Both the pups and their owners were re-evaluated after three months and, as expected, those in the physical activity group lost weight. But, surprisingly, so did those in the standard care group: despite the lack of direction, they ended up walking their dogs much more than they used to. Apparently the vet's health warning alone was enough to light a fire under their butts.

As Capt. Mark B. Stephens, MD, a co-author of the study, told the New York Times, “love and concern for a dog can be a powerful motivation for exercise.” So next time you think about cutting your walk short, remember your pooch is counting on you.

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