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Pheromones for a fast anxiety fix

Dogs and cats come into our offices in a variety of moods.  Those moods range from happy go lucky to downright petrified.  It's so easy to examine and treat a pet when they are happy - but when they are tense or frightened it is a lot more difficult.  Relatively fast acting anti anxiety products are essential to less stressful handling.  The analog pet pheromones can help the tense animal to relax in a relatively short period of time.  Using these products in the right way, at the right times can help a dog or cat relax at your office, leading to a less stressful exam.

There are 2 pheromone products that I feel every exam and treatment area should have available and ready to use.  Adaptil  is the analog mother dog pheromone and Feliway is the analog feline marking pheromone.  Both products come in a plug in or spray form and are manufactured by CEVA.   Both can help reduce anxiety, yet there are benefits to using a spray over the plug in and visa versa.  Understanding how the products work will help you to use these products to give you and your patients the best advantage of them.

Adaptil,  is  the mother dog pheromone analog, It  is inhaled by the dog and is absorbed up the roof of the mouth to reach the calming area of the brain.  All dogs have the receptors for this product no matter what age they are.  How well activated those receptors are and how much calming the product can give can vary on an individual basis.  The amount of time it takes for a dog to show they are calming can vary also.  The greater the concentration of the product inhaled, the better the calming.  So, spraying the Adaptil ( at least 5 pumps) on a bandana  or rubbed on the chest will allow the body heat to evaporate the product up to the face for inhalation.  This action has more impact than the plug in for the room.  Many dogs will show some degree of calming within 5 minutes and a maximum effect in about 20 minutes with the spray.  So for the nervous dog in the waiting area - get a bandana on them right away!  Use the waiting time and history taking time to allow the Adaptil to work.  You can also spritz more on your own smock or above the dog so they will inhale the droplets which will add to more calming.  The insert does not describe these applications but they have worked in our office to really help decrease fear and even aggression.

Feliway is the analog to the facial marking scent of cats.  For a cat, when they smell the Feliway on objects they think they have already claimed this as home so they feel less anxious.  The spray  primarily needs to go on the exam table, staff's hands, lab coats, cages, and  the carrier.  Some cats may not like the alcohol smell at first so let it air a bit.  Many cats will calm within the first 10 minutes of recognizing the Feliway but some cats may need more time.  I have found putting the Feliway on a bandana for travel to the clinic very helpful to decrease anxiety.  While cats rub on objects they also groom themselves which would transfer some of their own scent on their body.  In my opinion the bandana with Feliway is increasing the self scenting which is limited when a cat is nervous since they are less likely to groom. 

Adaptil spray will last 4 hours.  Feliway spray will last 24 hours.  The plug ins work all the time.  In the kennel areas, plug ins placed near the cages of upset animals can be a way to give constant help.  Be sure the plug in is not blocked, or far away from the pets who need it.  Spraying the cage really increases the concentration of the Adaptil or Feliway and can give  some fast effect.
When I speak at veterinary conferences and schools I find those who have not been satisfied with the results of these products have been using them in a very limited way.  Some of the most common misuse has been only using the plug ins for the exam areas; not using the products on bandanas or misting around the animal early when anxiety first starts; and expecting immediate profound results.  I am not employed or supported by Ceva; their products are the only ones that I have had any experience using in office for anxiety reduction.

Anxiety is additive.  Waiting to use antianxiety products  will require more time and product to decrease the fear.  Pheromones will never hurt anything, so why not use them early and often?  The cost is relatively low and it creates and educational opportunity about pet behavior help. We have sold a lot of these products for home use when we tell the client what we are doing and they see the results.  It is surprising the different ways a pet may have some kind of fear at home that is not a big problem but a client would appreciate help with. There are over the counter versions of Adaptil ( Comfort Zone) and Feliway if you do not wish to stock them.

If you have used these products in other ways with success, please write to me and tell me.  I am very interested in the ways that clinics are using anti anxiety products to help their patients. 

Sally J Foote, DVM  CFBC-IAABC
Okaw Veterinary Clinic Tuscola IL

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