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First drug for fat Fidos wins federal approval

WASHINGTON — Is your hound round? Too much flab on your Lab? Is your husky, well, husky? A new drug may provide some help.
    The government approved the first drug for obese canines on Friday. Called Slentrol, the Pfizer Inc. drug is aimed at helping fat Fidos shed extra pounds.
    ‘‘This is a welcome addition to animal therapies, because dog obesity appears to be increasing,’’ said Stephen Sundlof, director of the Center for Veterinary Medicine at the Food and Drug Administration.
    A dog that weighs 20 percent more than its ideal weight is considered obese. That takes in about 5 percent of the nearly 62 million dogs in the United States. An additional 20 percent to 30 percent are considered overweight.
    The liquid drug appears to reduce the amount of fat a dog can absorb. It also seems to trigger a feeling of satiety or fullness, according to the FDA.
    The prescription drug also can produce some unfortunate side effects, including loose stools, diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy and loss of appetite.
    And it’s not for dog owners. The FDA discourages the drug’s use in humans and lists a litany of side effects should anyone ignore that advice. Nor is Slentrol, also called dirlotapide, for use in cats.
    In general, dogs need a far fattier diet than humans do to thrive. Fat is an essential source of calories for dogs and is necessary for growth, development, reproduction and healthy skin, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.
    Like all diet drugs, Slentrol is meant to be part of an overall weight management program that includes a complete and balanced diet and exercise, according to its label. Slentrol is not a cure for obesity; its effects cease within a day or two of stopping treatment.
    Dogs, like people, grow fatter as they eat more and exercise less, said Bonnie Beaver, a professor at Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Beaver said the drug would appeal to dog owners who want a fast and simple way to slim down their paunchy pooches.
    ‘‘It’s easy to say we will feed them less and exercise them more. Well, we know how well that works for us,’’ said Beaver, a past president of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
    Slentrol should be available from veterinarians in the spring, according to Pfizer Animal Health. The once-daily drug should cost between $1 and $2 a dose, company spokeswoman Diane Iselin said.
    ———
    On the Net:
    Food and Drug Administration: http://www.fda.gov

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