Dogs & DHEA

A healthy weight can give your dog a longer life.
A healthy weight can give your dog a longer life. (Image: Dog image by Jan Zajc from

Obesity is a major health concern for dogs. Overweight dogs are more likely to develop conditions such as heart disease and arthritis, and these conditions can prevent them from living as long as some of their leaner four-legged friends. There are many ways to keep your dog's weight under control. Diet, exercise and supplements are just some of the techniques you may want to try. Talk to your veterinarian about the best way to control your dog's weight and to see if a dietary supplement, such as DHEA, might be beneficial.


Dehydroepiandrosterone, or DHEA, is a steroid that is naturally produced by the adrenal gland in humans and other mammals. It is a major steroid in humans but its levels are much lower in other mammals, such as dogs, according to an FDA document. Its anti-obesity properties have made it a factor in weight-loss programs and supplements. It can also be used in dogs to reduce cortisol, a stress hormone.

Weight Loss

DHEA research in dogs has shown a wide range of results; some dogs experience no change in weight while others show significant weight loss. A study performed by the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine found that dogs on a weight reduction program that were supplemented with DHEA lost more weight than dogs that were on the same program without DHEA, according to Doctors Foster and Smith's


DHEA can also affect cholesterol levels in dogs. The University of Wisconsin study also found that the dogs that received DHEA had lower cholesterol levels than the dogs that did not receive the supplement.


Low doses of DHEA appears to have little risk for dogs. According to Dr. Ernest Ward, a veterinarian and author in Calabash, North Carolina, 5 to 50 mg per day are recommended to promote weight loss without much risk. Another form of DHEA, called 7-oxo-DHEA, may be even safer and can be given at higher amounts. However, there is no established dosage for dogs. You should discuss any DHEA use with your veterinarian before administering it to dogs.


DHEA should be used with care in dogs. It is a steroid that can affect your dog's body systems and hormones; you should ask your veterinarian for advice before you use it as a weight-loss aid. According to the FDA, it is a potential carcinogen and toxin, and its use should be monitored carefully.

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