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Weight-loss drug designed for dogs

March 17, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
We all know most Americans overeat and don't exercise enough. But statistics show we're bringing our pets with us.Four out of every 10 dogs are overweight and it's really no laughing matter. The extra pounds can lead to arthritis, heart disease and breathing trouble. Now there's a new drug that may help your dog shed some of the excess weight.

Like their human counterparts, overweight dogs are no longer an exception. About 40 percent of man's best friends are overweight.

"Food is love. People love their pets, so they feed their pets," says Veterinary Dr. Robert Buzzetti.

Your pooch is too pudgy if he weighs 20 percent or more than his ideal body weight. And just a couple of pounds make a big difference. An extra 7 pounds in a dog that normally weighs 35 pounds is like an extra 30 pounds in a person who should weigh 150.

Diet and exercise are the best ways to slim down, but if they fail, veterinarians can now offer another option: Slentrol -- the first FDA-approved weight-loss drug for dogs.

"The biggest benefit is it causes a release of hormones that go to the brain that tell the animal that they are full," says Dr. Buzzetti.

It also blocks fat absorption. In a study of 141 dogs, more than half lost 12 percent of their body weight in just four months.

That's what Jane von Rutenberg is hoping for her 2-year-old Maltese Coco, who should weigh about 8 pounds.

"I think she got up to about 12 or 13 pounds. Almost 14 pounds. I thought, 'Something is wrong here,'" says von Rutenberg.

Coco's twin sister Kate is a healthy 7 pounds, even though they eat and exercise the same.

"Finally, I said, 'Isn't there something we can do? She shouldn't be this heavy,'" says von Rutenberg.

So she started Coco on Slentrol.

Coco started at 13.9 pounds. Today, she's down to 11.13 pounds. She has a little more to lose, but she's headed in the right direction.

Side effects of the drug are rare but include vomiting and diarrhea. The cost depends on the weight of the dog, but typically runs between $1 and $2 per day.

Dr. Buzzetti says Slentrol is not intended for long-term use; it's usually stopped after four months, once dogs reach their target weight. And if you're wondering, no, Slentrol is not safe for human use, or for cats.

 

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