Obesity Vaccine: A New Way to Help Your Pet Slim Down? Just Say No

Obesity Treatment

Story at-a-glance -

  • The first U.S. patent for an “obesity vaccine” for dogs and cats has been awarded to a biopharmaceutical company.
  • The vaccine is designed to create antibodies that attack somatostatin, which is a hormone that is an important regulator of endocrine and nervous system function.
  • There is just one documented study on the vaccine, which was conducted by the developer/patent holder. The study involved overfed mice, and the conclusion was that vaccinated mice gained less than half as much weight as unvaccinated mice.
  • Among items the study results don’t mention: the mice given the vaccine had an initial dramatic weight loss but then continued to gain weight, just not as quickly as the unvaccinated mice; and weight loss after the first dose of the vaccine was so dramatic that the dose used in the second injection was reduced out of concern for the health of the mice.
  • When and if obesity vaccines for pets become available from veterinarians in the U.S., we recommend avoiding them. It’s much safer and better for your pet to manage his weight through species-appropriate nutrition, controlled meal portions, and adequate exercise.

By Dr. Becker

In April, Braasch Biotech LLC, a biopharmaceutical company, was awarded the first U.S. patent for a vaccine to treat obesity in dogs and cats. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) issued the patent for "treatment of phenotypic obesity by vaccination." (A phenotype is a set of observable characteristics that result from the interaction of an individual's genetic makeup with the environment.)

Since I am very much against unnecessary vaccines due to the significant risks they carry, and given the obesity epidemic among U.S. dogs and cats, I find the idea of an obesity vaccine and the potential for its misuse very troubling, as do several other free-thinking veterinarians.

According to the CEO and Chairman of Braasch:

"Like human obesity, obesity in dogs and cats is at epidemic proportions. Although prevention is always the best option, once an animal reaches the obese state, owner intervention is necessary for the pet's continued quality of life and longevity. We are now pleased the USPTO has recognized our vaccine's novelty and commercial utility in the fight against dog and cat obesity."

Braasch has also applied for and/or received patent applications for their "obesity technologies" in Europe, Mexico, South Africa, Brazil, Canada and Japan. The uniqueness of the company's vaccine is its anti-somatostatin properties.

Obesity Vaccine Creates Antibodies to Somatostatin

MedicineNet.com defines somatostatin as:

A hormone that is widely distributed throughout the body, especially in the hypothalamus and pancreas, that acts as an important regulator of endocrine and nervous system function by inhibiting the secretion of several other hormones such as growth hormone, insulin, and gastrin.

Somatostatin is also known as Growth Hormone Inhibiting Hormone. Apparently an anti-somatostatin works against the Growth Hormone Inhibiting Hormone. According to Endocrine News, Braasch Biotech's vaccine, Somatovac, "creates antibodies that target somatostatin, a hormone that limits the body's production of growth hormone (GH) and insulin growth factor I (IGF-I)."

The magazine article goes on to say that a group of animals including horses, cows, pigs, mice and dogs given the vaccine developed higher levels of GH-releasing hormone and GH, a build-up of muscle and a breakdown of fat. The effects of the vaccine lasted two weeks. (No study or reference was cited.)

The developer of the vaccine conducted his own study titled Effects of novel vaccines on weight loss in diet-induced-obese (DIO) mice1. (When the developer of a vaccine conducts his own study, there is an assumed bias.) Mice were fed a very high fat content food six weeks prior and during the study. By the end of the study, vaccinated mice gained less than half as much weight as unvaccinated mice.

And according to the developer, Keith Haffer, Ph.D., who is also president and chief scientific officer of Braasch Biotech, Somatovac is cheaply made using E. coli cells. He estimates a cost of $10 to $20 a dose, with animals receiving a dose either monthly or every two months.

The vaccine is not intended for animals missing the GH gene, those who are immunocompromised, or cancer patients (IGF-I promotes cancer growth).

Next stop for Braasch Biotech's vaccine is the FDA.

Click here to learn moreClick here to learn more

Benefits of Vaccine Overplayed in the Media

PubMed Health picked up on a story in the U.K.'s Daily Mail -- and several other national news stories in the U.K. -- about the "flab jab" obesity vaccine, which discussed the mouse study mentioned above.

According to PubMed Health, what the news stories don't make clear is that mice given the vaccine had an initial dramatic weight loss but then continued to gain weight over the next six weeks, just not as quickly as the unvaccinated mice. Also, weight loss after the first dose of the vaccine was so dramatic that the dose used in the second injection was reduced to protect the health of the mice. Thirdly, based on the doses given to the mice, the amount of vaccine required for an average sized adult would be over a liter!

The results indicated that most of the weight loss in the mice occurred shortly after the first vaccination, when they stopped eating normally. These drastic results caused the researcher to reduce the dose used for the second vaccination. After the initial dramatic weight loss, the vaccinated mice gained weight, although they did not catch up with the control (unvaccinated) mice by the end of the six-week study period.

PubMed Health goes on to explain that the vaccine targets the hormone somatostatin, which inhibits release of growth hormone. The vaccine researchers believe growth hormone has "positive effects on obesity" in both animals and humans. However, somatostatin also has other inhibitory actions in the body. It suppresses thyroid hormones and several gut and pancreatic hormones. Reducing the level of this hormone in an animal's body could certainly have widespread consequences.

And just what are those? No one knows.

My Recommendation: Avoid Obesity Vaccines for Your Pet

Who knows when this or a similar obesity vaccine may become available in veterinary clinics, but if and when it happens, I strongly encourage you to avoid it for your pet.

According to the patent information for Somatovac2, it is a novel vaccine and contains an adjuvant. Adjuvants are added to vaccines to make them more effective. What they do is send an animal's immune system into overdrive, and this can have a lasting negative effect on your pet's health. To learn more about the dangers of vaccines, watch this video and/or read the accompanying article.

If you're a regular Mercola Healthy Pets reader, you know there is a wealth of information on this site on how to safely and effectively get your dog's or cat's weight under control. (Of course, the first thing every pet owner should do is avoid letting four-legged family members grow overweight to begin with.)

It's not difficult to get your pet to a healthy weight and keep him there. Pet dogs and cats get fat not on their own, but at the hands of their owners through a combination of overfeeding, feeding the wrong kinds of food, and lack of adequate exercise.

The right thing to do as a responsible pet owner is to help your pet stay in good condition naturally, through nutrition and physical activity. Turning to a novel, potentially dangerous vaccine to try to solve the problem of an overweight pet really isn't fair to your loyal companion.