Experts explain how these products, which are proven effective in treating separation anxiety, actually work. Plus, learn about all the different options available to you, including sprays, plug-in diffusers, wipes, and collars.

By Roxanna Coldiron
June 30, 2020
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Black and white striped cat sleeping
Credit: Thomas Hertwig / EyeEm / Getty Images

It's important to you that your pets lead healthier, happier lives. Whether you want veterinary advice, behavioral insight, or the best-in-market pet essentials that make every day more joyful, for both you and your cat or dog, The Well-Balanced Pet offers practical tips you can use.

We've all been there: Our pet needs to go to the veterinarian or has to go on a long car ride, but she is nervous and stressed from the experience. Pheromone-mimicking products are often prescribed as a way to calm our pets when an unexpected or confusing change occurs in their lives. So, how do pheromones work in calming our pets under stressful circumstances?

What Are Pheromones?

First, it helps to understand what pheromones actually are. "Pheromones are natural chemicals that act as a method of communication between members of a specific species," explains Heidi Cooley, DVM, Banfield Pet Hospital. Most living creatures, including humans, produce pheromones. Even some plants give off pheromones in their environment. When it comes to our pets, we can use pheromones to help them to feel safer in unfamiliar situations. "Pet pheromone products aim to mimic natural pheromones in efforts to relieve anxiety and calm pets," Dr. Cooley says. "The most common and useful pheromone products that calm pets are appeasing pheromone products, which help mimic the pheromones released by nursing."

When and How to Use Them for Your Pet

These pheromones remind the animals of the comfort of their mother. It is instinctual. A dog-specific appeasing pheromone concoction works to ease fear and anxiety in puppies, explains Dr. Cooley. Cat-specific appeasing pheromones, on the other hand, are often used to manage aggression and stress. Veterinarians often recommend using a cat pheromone product when introducing a new cat to a household that already has established cats. Because pheromones act on body chemistry, what works for one animal might not work for another. "It's important to note that pheromones can affect each pet differently," Dr. Cooley says. "It's essential that you partner with your veterinarian to assess the safest and most effective treatment options for your pet."

There are multiple options for pheromones, and how they can be delivered may affect their effectiveness on your pet. "Pheromone pet products are available for both cats and dogs and come in various forms, including diffusers, sprays, wipes, and collars," explains Dr. Cooley. "Make sure you choose the proper delivery method that best suits your environment and pet. For example, if your pet spends a lot of time outside, a collar and diffuser may be the best option."

When determining a treatment plan for your pet, you should always consult with your veterinarian. You will also want to monitor your pet for any adverse effects to the pheromone product. That's why it's also important to read the instructions and pay attention to any warnings or potential side effects listed on the product. Another thing to keep in mind is that even the most potent pheromones are not likely to produce immediate results. "It may take multiple exposures to the pheromone to achieve desired effects," says Dr. Cooley. You could use the pheromones in addition to any training or treatments that you are already doing at the recommendation of your veterinarian. It can become part of a comprehensive plan for ensuring that your animal feels safe and calm.

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