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A drug for pooches dragging paunches

The FDA backs Pfizer's Slentrol, an appetite suppressant for dogs. People shouldn't try it.

January 06, 2007|David Colker | Times Staff Writer

For the dog that has everything, including a weight problem, there is now a government-sanctioned diet drug.

The Food and Drug Administration on Friday approved the first weight-loss drug for canines. The once-a-day liquid medication, Slentrol, by huge drug maker Pfizer Inc. will cost as much as $2 a day.

That's more than what many people in the world live on. Should Fido be on an appetite-suppressing drug?

"This is an additional tool in a weight-loss program," said S. Kristina Wahlstrom, a veterinarian and director for Pfizer's U.S. companion animal operations.

Excess pounds have become a serious doggie dilemma. One study showed that nearly half of middle-aged canines -- age 4 and older -- have a weight problem, said Kathy Michel, associate professor of nutrition at the University of Pennsylvania veterinary school.

Many dog owners are "concerned that if they don't feed them from the table, they won't love them anymore," said Michel, who has served as an advisor to Pfizer and knew the drug was in development.

Celebrity dog trainer David Reinecker of Los Angeles said that if owners exercised their pets, the need for doggie diet meds would be scarce.

"Dogs got to run, they have to smell, they have to play," he said, fresh from a run with client Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's two dogs. The governor was in Sacramento being inaugurated.

The FDA has a warning for dog owners who look like their pets: Don't try Slentrol. Pfizer tested it on humans and found that it could cause nausea, abdominal pain and other non-fatal conditions.

Wahlstrom acknowledged that human weight loss has become such a craze that the drug could be seen, unfortunately, as the dieter's best friend.

"With most of the medications for dogs, people are not remotely interested in taking them," she said. "This might be the exception."

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david.colker@latimes.com

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