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You and your pet can get healthy together in 2020

Mitch the Lab
Posted at 4:45 PM, Jan 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-01 18:25:43-05

It’s a new year, and many people have set goals to be healthier in 2020.

But according to The Ohio State University, fewer than 25 percent of people who start a diet and exercise plan stick with their resolutions for more than a month.

According to experts at The Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center, your pet can help you follow through on your health goals.


Dr. Laurie Millward, a veterinarian, adopted Mitch the Labrador Retriever when he weighed 147 pounds.

“He would have to rock to be able to stand,” Millward said.

Mitch on a treadmill
PHOTO: Mitch, a Labrador Retriever, has lost more than 60 pounds through diet and exercise, including walking on an underwater treadmill at The Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center.

Just like it is in humans, that’s dangerous for animals.

“We see a lot of orthopedic problems, knee injuries, like ACL tears. We see a lot of arthritis issues in the overweight pets,” said Dr. Arielle Markley, a canine rehabilitation specialist at The Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center. “And then we also see a lot of chronic illnesses,” such as diabetes.

Millward has been trying to get Mitch in shape ever since she brought him home. He’s now lost 60 pounds, in part by using an underwater treadmill that reduces the stress on his joints.

“When we first started him in there, he couldn’t even do two minutes, and now he’s up to 30 minutes,” Markley said. “And he walks like against the resistance jets to make it harder, and so he’s rocking it now.”

In the process of working out with Mitch, Millward is getting healthier as well. She’s training to run her first 5K.

“The joy that running with him gives him also gives me joy, and so I feel like that is motivation alone to go out and exercise,” Millward said.

Finding the right pet

At the Cleveland Animal Protective League, adoption staff work with potential adopters to try to match animals with the right people, based on lifestyle and what they’re looking for in a pet.

“We will get people who come in and say, ‘Hey, I want to start running,’ or ‘I like going for long walks and I want someone to come with me.’ ‘I need a dog that’s gonna be active and energetic,’” said Sharon Harvey, president and CEO of the Cleveland APL.

It’s not just physical health benefits a pet can bring, but mental health benefits too.

“Just the joy of having an animal is such a stress-reducer,” Harvey said. “When you get home from a hard day at work, that your cat, your dog, your rabbit, your whatever pet you have is there just to be there and to be a constant companion.”


When starting a diet and exercise plan, experts at OSU’s Veterinary Medical Center suggest you think of the acronym “P.A.W.S.”

Plan when it comes to your workouts and grocery lists, incorporating small, realistic changes into your routine.
Get Active with your pet, doing physical activities you both enjoy.
Schedule Wellness checkups not only for your pet, but also for yourself.
Celebrate Success, but consider swapping out treats for your pet and giving them some extra love and attention instead.