Just like people, not all dogs and cats are naturally laid back and as calm as cucumbers. For some dogs and cats, certain events trigger stress, such as fireworks, storms, travel in the car or airplane, or trips to the veterinarian or groomer. For others, life itself is stressful and they suffer from general anxiety, sometimes resulting in behavior problems, such as tendencies to be destructive, over groom, or inappropriately void in the home.
Very often, our traditional solutions to these issues fall short of truly helping these patients. Valium, Xanax, Acepromazine, and other tranquilizers often have inconsistent effects on dogs and cats, in some cases even worsening their stress manifestations, as the disorientation caused by tranquilization leaves them more uneasy and/or queasy. Other times when they do work, the patient often becomes refractory to their benefit after just a few doses.
An exciting product line from cutting edge veterinary pharmaceutical, Ceva, offers us a unique, innovative, and side effect free solution for anxious or stressed pets, whether the anxiety is chronic or episodal in nature, utilizing pheromone therapy. Pheromones are biochemicals secreted by the glands of animals (including humans) that are detected outside the host body by other members of the same species by scent. Pheromones may transmit emotional ques during times of emotion, which may represent calmness or contentment, aggression, or fear.
In the case of the calming product lines that Ceva offers, Adaptil for dogs and Feliway for cats, they are utilizing pheromones that have a calming effect on each species. Adaptil mimics a pheromone that the lactating canine female transmits that serves to calm and soothe her puppies. Feliway mimics the facial pheromone secreted by cats that they use to mark their territory as safe and secure. These products collectively come in plug in diffusers that cover 700-800 square feet, sprays for bedding and bandanas, and collars.
As an example of how these products are used, as my veterinary hospital is about to break ground on a state of the art boarding kennel, we are about to start Ceva’s fear free clinic and kennel kit. In the canine and feline boarding areas, there will be plugin Adaptil and Feliway diffusers, respectively, plugged in at all times. Since the sprays last 6-8 hours, in the morning, we will spray individual bandanas with Adaptil and spray small stuffed toys called “nuzzle buddies” with Feliway and place them in sealable plastic bags. When dogs enter the clinic, if they seem particularly anxious, we will tie an Adaptil sprayed bandana around their necks to wear for the duration of the visit. For all cats (it is a rare cat that is not stressed by a vet visit even if they do not necessarily show it), a nuzzle buddy will be place in their carrier upon arrival.
One of the beauties of working with dogs and cats is that there is no placebo effect…treatments either work, or they do not. Unlike people, animals are not going to convince themselves of a product’s efficacy merely because the want to believe in it. I am moving forward with my hospital’s fear free clinic program because pheromone therapy works, as evidenced not only clearly by the data, but by countless anecdotal reports from veterinary colleagues that tout its efficacy. Clinically, I have had many successful outcomes recommending pheromone therapy.
Dr. Roger Welton is the President of Maybeck Animal Hospital in West Melbourne, FL, Chief Editor of the Veterinary Advice and Information Website, Web-DVM, and founder/CEO of Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care.