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Pet Behavior Problems: Can Pheromones Help?

Experts answer common questions about pet pheromone products.
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Q: Do pet pheromone products work?

A: Most of the research that's been published or presented at veterinary conferences has been done on Feliway (cat pheromones) and D.A.P. (Dog Appeasing Pheromone). In several studies -- most of which were funded by the products' maker -- both products were found to help soothe stressed pets in some circumstances.

Feliway mimics a cat’s F3 facial pheromones, which cats deposit when they rub their cheeks against surfaces, marking the areas as being safe, Hunthausen says.

The pheromone may reduce scratching and some types of spraying. In various studies, Feliway reduced spraying on vertical surfaces, such as walls or doors, in up to 90% of cases. But Hunthausen, who once did a company-sponsored Feliway study, says the product does not usually address the underlying problems that cause spraying on horizontal surfaces, such as beds or couches, so it is not very effective in those situations.

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.

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