Evaluation of dog-appeasing pheromone as a potential treatment for dogs fearful of fireworks

Pheromone helps some dogs with fear of fireworks

source: G Sheppard and D.S. Mills
Veterinary Record vol 152, no 14, April 5 2003
starts p432, 5 pages long

Dogs may show fear of fireworks, for example by whining, panting, or running away. Counter-conditioning of densitisation can be used, but may not be suitable for all dogs. Seasonal stimuli that frighten dogs, like fireworks, may be especially difficult to treat. Medication can also be used, but has to be given in advance, and it is not always easy to tell when fireworks are going to be let off. Medication may also fail to calm the dog, even if it changes the dog's behaviour, and it can have side effects. This study tests dog appeasing pheromone (DAP; Ceva Sante Animale) which is based on a synthetic mix of compounds found in secretions from bitches just after they have given birth. The pheromone is administered using an electric diffuser.

There were 30 dogs selected for this trial, and all had shown fear of fireworks, with 19 of the 30 also afraid of thunder. Owners were asked how they dealt with their dogs' fear, and 26 owners answered, with 18 trying to reassure the dogs, and eight trying to distract or ignore them. The owners were given advice on how to behave with their dogs when fireworks began, for example not rewarding the dog by making a fuss of him, but 25 of the 26 owners said that they did not change the way they treated their dogs as a result of this advice.

The symptoms shown by the dogs included panting, affecting 29 dogs, and trembling, affecting 28. After the treatment with pheromones, 22 owners noted an improvement, and only five were mainly or very dissatisfied with the treatment.

The results should be interpreted with caution, due to the small size of the sample, and there being no placebo control, however, dog-appeasing pheromone does appear to help dogs which are afraid of fireworks.