Overweight Dachshund

Diet pills for weight loss?

The drug, called Slentrol, was approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration in early January 2007. Pharmaceutical manufacturer Pfizer, Inc., plans to begin marketing the product to veterinarians in the Spring of 2007.

Slentrol acts on lipoproteins in the bloodstream. It promotes weight loss in two ways: reducing fat absorbed by the intestines and producing a feeling of fullness, so the dog eats less.

Some people question whether drugs are an appropriate way to treat canine obesity. Most dogs eat only what they are fed by their owners.

Most dogs will lose weight if you control the amount of calories going in.

People have enough trouble doing it for themselves. They're not going to do it for their dogs.

Why resort to drugs?

Many owners are no more successful controlling how much they feed their dog than in controlling their own food consumption.

Slentrol is not a magic bullet. Simply giving the drug and without making diet changes and increasing activity levels result in weight gain as soon as the dog is taken off the medication.

"Exercise and caloric restriction are still your first line of defense," said Dr. Sherry Sanderson, associate professor at the University of Georgia's College of Veterinary Medicine. Using patients from the school's veterinary clinic as subjects, Sanderson participated in one of the clinical trials of Slentrol before the product was approved.

"I think it's a great drug and it's going to be very popular," she said. "But I would recommend it for significantly overweight dogs."

Slentrol will be especially helpful for obese dogs that can't exercise or for dogs having medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and other orthopedic problems that are aggravated by being over-weight.

Slentrol drawbacks

Side effects include vomiting, diarrhea and lethargy. In clinical trials, vomiting was a common reaction, especially at higher doses and during the first few days of treatment.

Blood tests on dogs taking Slentrol show elevated liver enzymes. These enzyme levels return to normal once the dog stops taking the drug. But Pfizer cautions that dogs with liver disease should not take Slentrol.

Treatment may be long, costly

Pfizer recommends that dogs start on low doses for the first 2 weeks, then doubled. Dogs must visit the veterinarian once a month to be weighed and adjust dosages, depending on measured results.

When target weight is reached, the dog continues with a 3 month maintenance phase as the owner learns to make permanent changes in the dog's diet and exercise.

The dog is likely to regain the weight without diet and exercise modification.

Slentrol costs $1 to $2 per day, not including vet visits.