Pets and owners can shape up together

finalAHF_PawLogoExercise is good for pets and people. Dog owners reap such benefits as better heart health and lower stress levels. In places such as Mississippi, where dog longevity is particularly low, according to the Banfield Pet Hospitals 2013 State of Pet Health survey, people are encouraged to get active with their pets. Veterinarian Troy Majure recommends that owners and pets engage in at least a half-hour of activity each day, and with dog-friendly exercise classes and gyms popping up, owners and their furry friends have many options. The Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, Miss.) (tiered subscription model) (5/31)

urns out, man’s best friend also can be man’s best fitness buddy.

In Mississippi, where pet longevity is among the lowest in the nation, a neighborhood stroll or a Frisbee toss can prove beneficial for both dog and master.

In the 2013 State of Pet Health survey compiled by Banfield Pet Hospitals, a national pet hospital chain with locations in PetSmart stores in Jackson, Flowood and Gulfport, dogs in Mississippi have the shortest average life span in the nation, with Alabama and Louisiana coming in second and third, respectively.

The survey took in 7,354 dogs and 913 cats in Mississippi. The results are based on spay and neuter rates, incidents of pet disease such as obesity and arthritis and other environmental factors.

Troy Majure, a Jackson veterinarian and co-host of Mississippi Public Broadcasting’s “Creature Comforts” pet talk show, suggests pet owners aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise daily while keeping their four-legged friend — and themselves — hydrated.

“I do believe my clients are more aware of obesity than they were 10 years ago,” Majure said. “You don’t want to do too much too quickly, but steady improvement will help as far as exercise.”

Owning a pet, especially a dog, seems to have heart health benefits, according to the American Heart Association. Dog owners are 54 percent more likely than other adults to get recommended levels of exercise. In addition, a pet can lower stress, and pet ownership is associated with lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels and less obesity. Some dog owners get in two-a-day workouts because they don’t consider taking their dog out as exercise, so they still workout on their own time.

Other dog owners have gone beyond the neighborhood stroll, enrolling themselves and their dogs in group fitness classes with names like Bow Wow Bootcamp, Tai Chi Wa Wa and Pupilates at K9 Fit Club, a chain of dog friendly gyms with locations in Illinois, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and Florida.

K9 Fit Club founder Tricia Murray told Reuters that a serious purpose lies behind the cutesy class names.

“Some people I deal with are morbidly obese. They’re intimidated by gyms,” Murray said. “The dog’s not going to judge you. And they’ll never cancel on you.”

But cats, Majure says, are a different story.

“You can’t make a cat do a lot of things. However, there are games you can play,” Majure said. “Everybody thinks cats are pretty sedentary, but they have their moments.”

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