Dog ownership and physical activity among breast, prostate, and colorectal cancer survivors

Dog ownership has been associated with higher rates of physical activity (PA) in several populations but no study to date has focused on cancer survivors. The purpose of this study was to examine the associations between dog ownership and PA among cancer survivors; and to examine correlates of dog ownership.

A stratified random sample of 2062 breast (BCS), prostate (PCS), and colorectal cancer survivors (CRCS) was mailed a questionnaire assessing PA, social-cognitive, dog ownership, demographic, and medical variables.

Overall, 25% of the sample were dog owners (DOs). There were no significant differences in moderate, vigorous or total PA minutes between DOs and non-dog owners (NDOs). There was a significant difference in light PA minutes in favor of DOs (153 vs. 112 minutes; 95% CI = +4 to +77; p = .030), however, this was largely restricted to BCS (143 vs. 79 minutes; 95% CI = +25 to +102; p = .001) who also reported fewer vigorous PA minutes (18 vs. 39 minutes; 95% CI = -42 to -1, p = .042). Survivors were more likely to be DOs if they had breast cancer (p = .054), a higher income (p = .021), radiation therapy (p = .029), chemotherapy (p = .010), were younger (p < .001), employed (p < .001), and a current smoker (p = .015). Few social cognitive variables were associated with DO.

Dog ownership among cancer survivors was not associated with moderate-to-vigorous PA, but was associated with light PA. Further research is necessary to determine if promoting dog ownership and dog walking among cancer survivors may increase PA and possibly improve health outcomes.

Psycho-oncology. 2016 Jan 25 [Epub ahead of print]

Cynthia C Forbes, Chris M Blanchard, W Kerry Mummery, Kerry S Courneya

Department of Medicine, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada., Faculty of Medicine, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada., Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.