Something for the Dog That Eats Everything: A Diet Pill
Saturday, January 6, 2007
The obesity epidemic has spread to man's best friend, and so many dogs are getting fat that the government stepped in yesterday by approving the first doggie diet pill.
The Food and Drug Administration announced the approval of Slentrol, a prescription drug that can suppress Fido's appetite while also blocking the absorption of fat from his treats.
"This is a welcome addition to animal therapies," said the FDA's Stephen Sundloff. "Dog obesity appears to be increasing."
Experts blamed the same factors that cause people to get fat: too much food and not enough exercise.
"The parallels between human obesity and canine obesity are striking," said John E. Bauer, a veterinarian at Texas A&M University. "They live with us. So when we eat too much, they eat too much. When we don't exercise enough, they don't exercise enough. And when we snack between meals, they probably snack between meals."
Americans' increasingly hectic schedules also mean that many dogs are spending their days cooped up in houses or apartments, eating out of boredom and getting very little exercise because owners are too busy to make it to the dog park. When owners do get home, they tend to lavish their pets with treats.
"It's tough to resist when the dog is looking up at you with those plaintive eyes. There's a lot of that going on, especially among individuals who may be the perennial couch potato," Bauer said. "Our dogs may not have their own cup holders, but they often are there with us at the drive-through and often end up getting their own burgers."
The result is that pets are getting many of the health problems plaguing overweight people, including heart disease, diabetes and arthritis.
"It's sad," said Bonnie Beaver of the American Veterinary Medical Association. "We see animals with diabetes. We see animals with arthritis in pain. Their quality of life is poor. We're killing our pets with kindness."
Dogs are considered obese if they are more than 20 percent above their ideal weight, which varies depending on the breed. More than a third of American dogs are estimated to be overweight or obese, and the problem is not limited to the canine world.
"Dogs, cats, horses -- we see it in all of them," said Rebecca Remillard of the Massachusetts SPCA Angel Animal Medical Center in Boston. "We even see it in some exotic pets like ferrets. Fat birds are a real problem."
But the new drug, called a selective microsomal triglyceride transfer protein inhibitor, is only for dogs. How it works is not well understood, but it blocks absorption of fat and seems to control appetite. It is given in liquid form under a veterinarian's close supervision. It can cause vomiting, diarrhea and lethargy.
Pfizer Inc., which makes the drug, said studies found that Slentrol is safe and effective in a variety of breeds, from dachshunds to retrievers. Most lost at least some weight, and half dropped at least 11 percent of their body weight in four months. But the company and other experts said diet and exercise are necessary in addition to the drug, which will cost $1 to $2 a day.
"It's not going to be a panacea, but it's another tool to help families help their pets get the weight off," Beaver said.
Concerned that some obese people might be tempted to use the drug, the FDA is requiring that it carry strict warnings.
"It's for dogs -- not for cats, and not for people," said Pfizer spokesman Bob Fauteux.
In people, the drug can cause adverse reactions including abdominal pain, diarrhea, flatulence, headaches, nausea and vomiting.