Researchers have proved that dogs are an unlikely ally for pregnant women - showing that expecting mothers who own one are more physically active than those who don't.
Joint research found that the pet commonly known as 'man's best friend' can be significant in keeping pregnant women fit and healthy.
Through brisk walking, an obvious side-effect of owning a dog, pregnant women were around 50 per cent more likely to achieve the recommended 30 minutes activity per day.
|Pregnant paws: An international research team has found that dog walking is an effective way for pregnant women to achieve 30min of exercise a day|
There is growing concern about the health risks connected to gaining excess weight during pregnancy, for both mother and child. Some studies have linked maternal obesity to childhood obesity.
The research studied the health and lifestyles of more than 11,000 pregnant women in the UK - using data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children.
By helping pregnant women stay active, dog walking could form part of an effective strategy for managing weight gain during pregnancy.
|Vested interest: Dr Sandra McCune, of the Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition, with her own best friend Winston|
Dr Sandra McCune, research programme manager at the Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition, said: 'We are increasingly seeing that exercising with a dog can lead to improved motivation and effectiveness.
'As a low-risk exercise, dog walking can help women who may otherwise find it hard to meet their exercise targets, keep active and fit during pregnancy.
'Together with a balanced diet, it could therefore help towards ensuring a healthy pregnancy.'
The research was conducted in collaboration with the University of Liverpool, University of Bristol and University of South Carolina and theWaltham Centre.