Slimming Pill for Podgy Pooches
Sunday Times 17
The first slimming drug for dogs has been approved by the US medical regulator amid fears about growing levels of pet obesity.
The "weight management" drug Slentrol reduces dogs' appetites and their absorption on fat. In clinical trials dogs' weight was reduced by an average of between 18% and 22%. Vets estimate that about 40% of dogs' in Britain and the US are overweight.
The drug will initially be sold in the US and will cost up to 1 pound a day. "This is a welcome addition to animal therapies as dog obesity appears to be increasing," said Stephen Sundlof of the US Food and Drug Administration, which regulates pharmaceuticals. Slentrol is taken in liquid form and dog owners will be strongly warned not to taken the drug themselves as it can damage human livers. In trials on 550 dogs, no liver damage was observed; instead, potential canine side effects are vomiting and diarrhoea.
George Fennell, Pfizer's vicepresident for "companion animal health", said "This is not a passport to abandon exercise or diets." The drug has gone through full clinical trials normally associated with treatments for humans. The canine volunteers lost about 3% of their weight a month without their diets being changed.
Obesity is linked to a range of common dog problems seen increasingly by vets, including cardiovascular conditions, diabetes, torn ligaments, sores on elbows and backs and arthritis. Some breeds such as beagles, dachshunds and Labradors appear to be particularly prone to gaining weight. The problem has become so prevalent that some owners are unable to accept how fat their pets have grown. The owner of a female Rottweiler told a documentary interviewer last year her pet was "not a fat dog". The dog's weight was almost 89kg. The owner of an obese spaniel was warned it could die, but hours later the dog was filmed eating six pieces of cake.
Pet-food manufacturers have developed diet dog food to help tackle the problem and some US vets have begun offering liposuction operations. Why don't owners just feed their dogs less and give them more exercise? The problem is that the lifestyles of owners and pets are intertwined. John Bauer, a veterinary expert at A&M University in Texas, said: "The parallels between human obesity and canine obesity are striking. 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."
"They are often there with us at the (fast-food) drive-through and often end up getting their own burgers."
Multinational pharmaceutical firms increasingly see remedies for pets as a profitable area. Pfizer's animal health website says it understands that "dogs aren't just pets, they're members of the family." The firm has also developed drugs to treat "cognitive dysfunction syndrome" in older dogs for when animals become lonely, forgetful and confused.