Okaw Veterinary Clinic

140 W. Sale
Tuscola, IL 61953

(217)253-3221

www.okawvetclinic.com

Animal Pheromones? Weird Science or What?

 

Pheromones are biologically active chemicals. These chemicals are typically produced naturally by one animal to affect another animal, usually of the same species. In simple terms, this is where a mother dog makes a chemical in the skin near her breast. When the puppies absorb this chemical as they start to nurse, the puppies relax and calm down so they nurse better. This pheromone acts on the brain of the puppy to calm them (that is what biologically active means).    

There are lots of types of pheromones in nature for all the different species. In the animal care world, there are different products available now that are pheromone based to help with behavior. There are some that are synthetic (meaning lab created) pheromones that copy the natural product made and some are plant origin products. There is a difference in how effective the synthetic pheromones and the plant based products work.

Feliway and Adaptil are 2 synthetic pheromone products. They work to calm cats (Feliway) or dogs (Adaptil) specifically. There is also a synthetic horse pheromone product made by CEVA. They work directly on the animal's receptors in their brain to calm them. How much these products will help decrease fear depends on how intense the fear is. The animal will calm down a bit, but if they are very upset they will calm to mildly upset. These products reduce fear, they do not eliminate it. They are not sedatives and can be used other medication. Often I prescribe an antianxiety medication such as Alprazolam along with a Adaptil collar to get the best calming effect without sedation for thunderstorms.

There are other collars, tags and sprays that use Lavender, chamomile or Rosemary and are called pheromone products. Please do not confuse these with the true animal pheromones. There may be a calming effect from these products, but it is much less consistent than Adaptil or Feliway. So some pet owners have tried these products and have been disappointed in the results. If you have tried a pheromone collar for thunderstorm phobia you got from the pet store it is not the Adaptil collar. If you were disappointed in the results, it may be due to the fact it is not the true pheromone that the dog's brain responds to. Currently the Adaptil collars are only available through veterinarians. The lavender collars usually will not work as well since the animal does not have the receptors in the brain for the lavender product. If the plant based products are working for your pet? great!  It is very likely there is some kind of calming effect. How it works, and how reliable it is for an animal is not yet known. 

All of these pheromone products last for a specific time. Adaptil spray will last 4 hours on a bandana or in an area. Feliway will last 24 hours sprayed in the room. The collars and diffusers will last a month. It is helpful to mark your calendar to remind you to renew the collars and diffusers.

Pheromones have been around for a long time. Science is beginning to understand how they work, how to make them and produce them in a useful form. Using pheromones combines a natural approach with the science of the brain and behavior. Many benefits to animals and humans have been found with the use of pheromones. 

To find out about these products and how to use them, read more about it in behavioral support