One Health: Dog walking in an era of overweight and obesity: Strategies for both ends of the leash

finalAHF_PawLogoRebecca A. Johnson, University of Missouri, USA (Co-Author of “Walk A Hound, Lose A Pound)

ABSTRACT for AVMA Convention, 2013, Human-Animal Bond Track

A large share of the industrialized world is recognizing and struggling to address an epidemic of overweight and obesity which has also extended itself to companion animals. Creative strategies are needed that transcend species and help to facilitate physical activity. The nature of human-animal interaction (HAI) as a key facilitator of physical activity for both ends of the leash will be explored. In particular, what components of HAI and the human animal bond are most likely to facilitate cross-species physical activity, what role dog walking can play when it is incorporated into treatment plans for people and companion animals, and what arethe theoretical and empirical bases for advocating dog walking?

The potential for dog walking as a communities-wide intervention and its applicability across cultures will be discussed. Attention will be paid to clinical implications around dog walking and its potential for advancing One Health practice in a variety of disciplines.  This work grew out of my research on relocation of older adults in which I found that physical limitations were common reasons for them to relocate to a nursing home. In our first study we achieved significant weight loss among participants. Subsequent studies showed that older adults’ normal walking speed increased
significantly after dog-walking and that dog walking was associated with increased physical activity outside of the dog walking. The findings show that HAI can have important implications for health and well-being.

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