Should Diet Pills for Your Dog Exist?

Obesity in pets is a big, costly health problem, just like in humans. Up to 40% of pets in Australia are overweight or obese. But are diet pills the right answer?

Carrying extra weight leads to reduced life spans for our pets and chronic diseases such as osteoarthritis. Zoetis in the US has recently released a diet pill on the market called Slentrol, with the active drug dirlopatide. It promises to curb your dog’s appetite and lead to gradual and predictable weight loss. Currently it is not available in Australia, though the company applied with the APVMA for registration in 2013.

It seems like a deceptively simple way to help our pets lose weight. The medication does come with side effects and in the US, where it is available, many vets are less than happy to prescribe it. In clinical trials up to 25% of dogs experienced vomiting or diarrhoea during Slentrol treatment and while drug is known to inhibit microsomal triglyceride transfer protein and possibly increase feelings of satiety (fullness) and inhibit fat absorption, the exact mechanism for the decreased appetite is not fully known.

The simple truth is that we as owners control what our pets eat, so theoretically we can implement portion control and help them lose weight. Most can’t open the fridge to get a snack anytime they want, so we do have the final say. However, that being said, some pets are perpetually hungry (yes Labradors we’re looking at you!), whether they are actually on a diet or not. So for these dogs, perhaps they would be happier if they weren’t constantly hungry.

So, what do you think, should we use diet pills in our pets? Or just take better care with regard to what we let our pets eat and how regularly they exercise?