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Pet Behavior Problems: Can Pheromones Help?

Experts answer common questions about pet pheromone products.

Q: Do pet pheromone products work? continued...

D.A.P., called Comfort Zone when sold over the counter, mimics the pheromone nursing dogs release to comfort their puppies. Studies show that it may help with general anxiety, as well as stress caused by vet visits, travel, fireworks and other loud noises, separation anxiety, and can even help calm dogs in shelters. 

A study done in 2005 showed that puppies in a training class that were fitted with pheromone collars were later found to have less behavioral problems and were more sociable than puppies not given the collar.

But pheromone products don’t work for all pets or for all problems. Neilson said she doesn't rely on pheromone products alone.

“I never use it in isolation,” Neilson says. “I’m also usually doing behavior modification and sometimes drug therapy.”

Q: What about other pet pheromone products?

A: Sergeant’s Pet Care Products introduced pheromone collars in 2009 for dogs and the only pheromone cat collar on the market.

Sergeant’s communications manager, Kelly Lytle Baehr, says the collars reproduce the calming pheromones nursing mothers release to soothe their babies. Baehr says Sergeant’s paid for three studies by independent researches that show the collars work, but she says the results were not published or presented and so are not available for review.

Other products use herbal blends to simulate pheromones. Jodi Hoefler, vice president of the Garmon Corporation, says their Quiet Moments sprays for dogs and cats use a patented blend of herbs to simulate canine- or feline-appeasing pheromones to give stressed pets a feeling of safety and well being. The company also makes a product called No Mark, which uses an herbal blend that simulates a feline pheromone to stop cats from marking.

Another company, Nutri-Vet, makes sprays and diffusers called Pet-Ease that use essential oils of herbs that simulate pheromones. “We use calming oils,” says Phil Brown, DVM, vice president of marketing for Nutri-Vet. “The effects are similar, it’s just what is causing the effects that differ.”

Brown says studies like those done for Feliway and Comfort Zone are too expensive for small companies, but he says public feedback has been positive. And, as with other pheromone-based or simulated products, Brown says they should be used in conjunction with behavior modifications and other therapies to have the best chance of success.

Q: Are pet pheromone products safe?

A: There are no reports of any side effects, and Neilson and Hunthausen say they have never seen a bad reaction to the calming pheromones.

“They’re species specific, so they don’t affect people or other types of pets in the home,” Neilson says. “And even if you have several dogs or several cats, the other animals can probably benefit from the pheromones as well.”

Pheromones are also "good for older, skittish or sick pets, because it doesn’t stress them further to use them," Hunthausen says.

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Reviewed on June 23, 2010

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