The first prescription weight-loss drug to treat Americans' increasingly plump pooches won U.S. approval Friday, aimed at millions of overweight dogs with busy, treat-giving owners.
WASHINGTON -- The first prescription weight-loss drug to treat Americans' increasingly plump pooches won U.S. approval Friday, aimed at millions of overweight dogs with busy, treat-giving owners.
The drug, Pfizer Inc.'s Slentrol, decreases appetite and fat absorption to help obese dogs lose weight, the FDA said. Roughly 5 percent of U.S. dogs are obese and another 20 percent to 30 percent are overweight, it added.
"This is a welcome addition to animal therapies because dog obesity appears to be increasing," said Stephen Sundlof, head of FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine.
Also known as dirlotapide, the once-daily liquid can also cause various side effects, including vomiting, loose stools, diarrhea and lethargy.
Americans own 65 million dogs, according to statistics cited by the Humane Society of the United States, and about 39 percent of U.S. households have at least one.
Veterinarians generally consider dogs that weigh 20 percent more than their ideal weight obese, the FDA said.
Like their human counterparts, overweight dogs are also at risk for developing diabetes, heart trouble, joint problems and other complications, the FDA said.
At the same time, two-thirds of Americans are also overweight or obese, government statistics show.
But Slentrol is not for human use and will carry warnings to discourage people from using it, the FDA said.
Bonnie Beaver, past president of the American Veterinary Medical Association and veterinarian at Texas A&M University, said the drug could help some dogs.
"It's not a panacea, and it will not totally replace good diet control and exercise. We know that pets are gaining weight just as their owners often do," she said.
Still, Humane Society spokeswoman Stephanie Slain said while dog owners can have busy schedules, they should first work with a vet to curb food portions and increase exercise before using drugs.
"Our fear is that people are trying to find an answer that seems easy to them but that is not the best solution for their dog," she said.
Owners could hire dog walkers and include pets in family activities such as a walk during children's soccer practice, Slain added. "If you're going to spend 15 minutes, spend it walking your dog instead of cleaning up diarrhea," she said.
The drug will be available this spring, Pfizer said, and will be given orally at various doses. Veterinarians should weigh dogs monthly and, if needed, adjust the dose to maintain weight loss, the FDA added.
In a statement, Pfizer said Slentrol gives vets another tool to manage weight and makes it easier for owners to help feed their pets less.
While diet and exercise can work, Pfizer said, it can be too hard.
"Many dog owners experience frustration with these measures because of lack of time to exercise their dogs, and difficulty restricting food and treats," the company said.
Consumers, who surveys show already spend an average of $263 per year on veterinary-related expenses, can expect to spend $1 to $2 per day for the drug, Pfizer said.
Company officials declined to give sales or market estimates for Slentrol. But George Fennell, vice president for Pfizer's companion animal business, said there "could be considerable interest."
According to the FDA, Pfizer recommends using the drug for three months, but the company said dogs taking the drug were studied for up to 10 months, and the duration will depend on the amount of weight loss needed.
Shares of Pfizer closed down 8 cents at $26.30 on the New York Stock Exchange on Friday.