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Ask The Vet: Can medication help a dog lose weight? | Local

Q: My dog can not lose weight no matter how little I feed him, and sometimes I feel like I’m starving him. Are there any medications that will help him lose weight?

A: Unfortunately, just like with people, the only way for a dog to lose weight is to eat fewer calories and exercise more. Also, just like people, there are dogs with exceptionally slow metabolisms, and some dogs tend to be couch potatoes.

If you feel that your dog is truly getting minimal calories, getting appropriate exercise, and is still not losing weight, then I recommend getting him into your veterinarian to check for metabolic issues that might be hindering weight loss — such as hypothyroidism. However, this is not the case most of the time, and you must work on decreasing calories and increasing exercise.

You can decrease calories by buying a lower-calorie dog food and feeding less. You can supplement his meals with vegetables such as green beans so that he feels he is eating more. You must be very strict with treats, such as rawhides, bones, and table food, as this is where most of the extra calories come from. All family members must be clear on how much your dog can eat, and everyone should use a measuring cup to ensure you are only giving the amount of food your dog needs.

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Exercise is essential for a healthy dog, so getting your dog out for a walk every day is vital for weight loss. Access to a backyard is not considered exercise because a couch potato will not exercise himself appropriately. Remember, our domestic dogs are the descendants of animals who were used to walking for miles at a time. So, at the very least, your pooch needs a good 20- to 30-minute quick-paced walk every day just to keep up with his ancestors! Weight loss is essential for joint health and overall well-being, so getting your dog to lose weight should be a top priority.

Q: My cat has kidney failure and is not eating well, and nothing has really helped improve her appetite and comfort level. I don’t know how much time we have left with her, and I want her to be as comfortable as possible. Can medicinal marijuana be given to animals to improve appetite and treat pain like they do in humans?

A: Marijuana has gotten a lot of attention lately with the legalization of recreational marijuana in Washington, Alaska, Oregon, and Colorado. Medicinal marijuana is legal in 23 states and has been useful in treating pain, nausea, muscle spasms, nerve pain, seizures, digestive issues, and more.

Due to the increased use by humans, it has also become an issue for our domesticated animal population. There has been a big increase in the number of marijuana toxicities seen in animals, most commonly in dogs that ingest the drug when it’s in an edible form, such as a brownie or piece of candy. As the concentration of the drug in the edibles has increased, the severity of the toxicities has elevated with clinical signs ranging from muscle tremors, hallucinations, seizures, to coma.

Treating animals for marijuana toxicity has become commonplace in emergency rooms. Although most animals do fine with supportive care and return to normal once the drug has worn off, this substantiates the fact that we currently have no idea about the correct dosing for animals.

Animals metabolize drugs very differently and at very different rates than humans, so although the dose might be accurate for humans, it cannot be extrapolated to animals without further evaluation.

Even in the states that allow recreational marijuana usage, it is still technically illegal for a veterinarian to prescribe marijuana to an animal. Will marijuana be used in animals in the future? I absolutely believe that it will, but at this time, without more research and controlled studies, the efficacy and dosing are unknown.

Dr. Julianne Miller is a Flagstaff veterinarian. She can be reached at [email protected]