Dog Weight Loss for Arthritis Treatment

Dog Arthritis Treatment with ‘Magic’ Weight Loss Tablets: Does It Work?

The importance of weight loss for dog arthritis treatment cannot be over-emphasized, yet it remains an elusive goal for many dogs. The old formula of reduced food and increased exercise does not seem to work for some dogs, and so there is a real temptation to look for other ways to tip the scales in their dog’s favour. A quick search on the internet will reveal countless dog weight loss supplements but do they work, and what science is behind them?

Several supplements MAY assist in weight loss, but you should note that they have not been proven to work. Here is a list of the more common ones; I aim to educate you on these products to look at the ingredients and make up your mind.

  • DHEA (DeHydroEpiAndrosterone)
  • Slentrol
  • L-Carnitine
  • Green tea extract
  • Chromium
  • Chitisan and other fast-absorbing drugs

DHEA (DeHydroEpiAndrosterone)

DHEA is a benign drug that MAY be beneficial for some dogs. It does no great harm, and some owners believe it helps, so I have no objections to its use.

In terms of weight loss, DHEA can help to reduce fat stores in the body. In broader terms, DHEA has many effects on the body, such as:

  • Muscle building (though its anabolic activity is quite weak, approximately 1/50th of anabolic steroids)
  • Immune system and anti-cancer regulation
  • Improves the effects of insulin (this can help drive nutrients from the blood into cells and thus help weight loss.)

The suggested dose is 5-25mg/dog per day.


Slentrol is the only registered pharmaceutical / veterinary drug on this list. It works by trapping fat in the intestinal cells, which through a very elegant system fools the brain into thinking your dog is full and should stop eating – in short, it tricks the brain into being satisfied with a smaller meal. Studies by Pfizer showed a 12% weight loss over four months without the use of diet foods.

Slentrol does not always work, and you cannot use it on cats or people. Furthermore, it has been the subject of some controversy – some see it as a lifestyle drug that replaces the need for proper weight management. This will be true for many dogs, but for some dogs, the normal methods don’t work. Here are some of the common situations where Slentrol could arguably be used:

  • People who bond with their pets through treats
  • Dogs whose metabolism is just not suited to the weight loss diets
  • Multi-pet households where it is hard to control who gets what


Carnitine is a vitamin-like amino acid that plays a role in fat metabolism and energy production. Studies in dogs would suggest L-Carnitine (present in some weight-loss diets) will assist with weight loss and maintain muscle mass. While these studies are encouraging, further work needs to be done.

Green Tea Extract

Green tea extract is common in human weight loss pills, so it is worth a mention. It contains Epigallocatechin gallate (a type of catechin) that has been shown to help obesity in mice by decreasing energy absorption and increasing fat consumption (0xidation). I don’t think green tea extract does any harm but beware of human weight loss pills as many contain caffeine, which dogs do not tolerate as well as we do!


Though sometimes used as a diabetes drug in cats, chromium does not work so well in dogs. It has not received much attention for 5+ years.


Chitisan is a fibre supplement made from shellfish. It is supposed to work by biding fats and decreasing their absorption in the bloodstream. Nobody has ever proven this to be the case, although nobody has had too many problems with it either. Safe but questionable and again has not received much attention for 5+ years.

Putting it All Together

You will find the above ingredients in some dog weight loss foods and dog supplements. I have deliberately not mentioned any brands because they come and go, and it is far more important to know what is in these foods rather than the brand name! So look at the ingredients and make your mind up for yourself.

Just remember there is no magic bullet for weight loss and dog arthritis treatment – but taken together, the above suggestions can make quite a difference.

Weight Loss for Dog Arthritis Treatment – The Biggest Losers

Weight control is THE BIGGEST single thing you can do to improve dog arthritis treatment dramatically – I have made this point clear time and time again. Yet weight loss is also one of the hardest treatments to achieve.

Many dog owners are amazingly diligent – giving prescription medications, providing physical therapy and massage, trying all sorts of herbal supplements or glucosamine for dogs, and even putting their dog through surgery. This high level of diligence and care is worth applauding, but many of these treatments are not needed if their weight is well controlled. I’ll say it again weight loss is the single most important thing you can do for dog arthritis treatment. But life gets in the way, and we can give any number of reasons why our pets have become fat! There are three important areas that the biggest losers have in common.

  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Weight loss behaviours & attitudes


The modern dog has an abundance of high-quality, highly concentrated, and very tasty food. There is no doubt that dog nutrition has come a long way – we have cured fatal heart problems, eye conditions, skin itches, and much more. Yet nutritional issues are more common now than ever before, and guess what is number one on the list these days? Obesity.

There is no perfect diet for dogs to control obesity, just as there is no diet for people. Dogs are all different but here is some food for thought (excuse the pun)

  • Small meals frequently can help so long as the total amount of food for the day is the same – portion control!
  • High protein diets seem to make dogs feel ‘full’. High fibre diets can work likewise. Unfortunately, most weight loss foods are one or the other, but newer foods are starting to combine the two. Studies on these more contemporary foods are showing encouraging results.
  • The weight-loss diets are well designed and provide good nutrition with reduced calories. This is my suggested starting point but will likely need fine-tuning.


Dogs will naturally exercise when they are young and energetic. As they age, they slow down, and their diet should be reduced by about 25-30%. Put it this way; if you are feeding the same amount of food to your 10-year-old Labrador that you did when he was one year old, he is probably overweight.

Neutering does not cause weight gain, but the lack of hormones makes dogs a little less active and may well upset the hormonal balance. These things can push dogs towards weight gain. I am strongly in favour of neutering for many reasons; just be aware that you need to be a little more careful with your dog’s weight.

Weight Loss (or Gain) Behaviors

So what do the biggest losers in the dog weight loss game have in common? They do something about it – they take action to change their ways. In a recent study, veterinarians were asked why their patients were overweight – a resounding 97% of veterinarians suggested that the problem was due to owner compliance on weight control. A mere 3% were suggested to be due to medical disorders. As I said above, obesity is the most common nutritional disorder in dogs.

Be Aware of Our Dogs Behaviors

We need to be aware of our dog’s attitudes and behaviours to food, which are usually fairly simple and instinctive – it is very easy for dogs to overeat!

  • Dogs are by nature social eaters, so they eat more if we are around.
  • Dogs are also comfort eaters in a very similar fashion to people, so they will eat more if stressed or anxious.
  • Food is also a real highlight of their day – few dogs will self-regulate their food intake!

Be Aware of Our Behaviors

Our attitudes and behaviours can make the problem much worse. Here are some common perceptions or actions that can cause problems:

  • People have different perceptions of obesity in dogs and a bias that their own dog’s weight loss is not too bad. Breeds such as the Labrador and Beagle are classic examples – so many are overweight that we see these dogs as normal.
  • It feels good to feed your dog. It makes people happy; it makes their dog happy. Everyone wins, right? Wrong.

What should I do next?

Veterinary professionals can make a difference – they provide an unbiased opinion and through a system of Body Condition Scoring can put a number to your pet’s pounds. In short, they can make you aware of the problem and hopefully enlist all family members’ support. Without enlisting help from all of the family, your dog will not lose weight.

Try a good quality weight loss diet – there are many on the market, but the high protein diets seem most promising:

  • Royal Canin Calorie Control High Protein
  • Purina Proplan Weight Management is good for over-the-counter food.

Remember that no diet or plan is perfect, and you may need to change things along the way, but if you persist, your dog WILL WIN. Weight loss has immense benefits for dog arthritis treatment and quality of life and can add years to your much-loved pet’s lifespan.