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Vet Report

Is pheromonotherapy up to snuff?

Horses

Tri-State Neighbor Columnist

Dr. Lainie Kringen-Scholtz is Associate Veterinarian at Twin Lakes Animal Clinic in Madison, South Dakota.

There are several new and old pheromone products that you can purchase for anything from your beef herd to your cat herd. So how do these products work and are they actually useful?

Pheromones

Pheromones are powerful chemicals that are secreted by one animal to change the way another animal from the same species behaves. We have known about pheromones since the ancient Greek times when they recognized that the secretions from female dogs that were in heat attracted male dogs. Then in 1623, a beekeeper noticed that an injured bee would attract other bees and cause them to sting. But it wasn’t until 1959 that the first pheromone was chemically identified.

Lainie Kringen-Scholtz

Lainie Kringen-Scholtz

How do pheromones work?

Many vertebrates, excluding humans and other higher primates, have a “second nose” called the vomeronasal organ (VNO). The VNO is located just above the hard palate near the intranasal septum. You’ve probably seen bulls or horses use this when they flip their nose in the air displaying the “flehmen response” which directs pheromones to the VNO. From there, the VNO sends signals to the limbic system which changes the animal’s emotional state or activates physiological effects.

Pheromones on the market

There are pheromones for a lot of different species that are commercially available. Their efficacy is controversial with conflicting and inconsistent results in the research. Below are a few that you could discuss with your veterinarian about for your animals.

Maternal Bovine Appeasing Substance

A product called “FerAppease” is being marketed right now that shows promise of helping cattle respond better to stressful situations. You apply 5 milliliters behind the head and 5 ml on the muzzle while they are in the chute to decrease cortisol and increase feed intake after weaning and for several other uses, according to the company.

Equine Maternal Pheromone

“Confidence EQ” is a gel that horse owners can put on the horse’s nostrils during stressful times to decrease their heart rate, cortisol levels, decrease vocalization, and decrease fecal water loss. It is applied 30 minutes before the stressor and lasts around two and a half hours. Although this is a very neat product, it is not a sedative, so having realistic expectations of its subtle behavioral changes is a must.

Dog Appeasing Pheromone

There are several products on the market with the most common being Adaptil, which comes in both collars and diffusers. This product is used most successfully in dogs with separation anxiety. Again, having realistic expectations, this product must be used as an adjunct along with behavioral modification.

Cat Appeasing Pheromone

Feliway” as been on the market for a long time and has been helping cats with several things such as inappropriate urination, scratching on nondesirable surfaces and intercat aggression.

Boar Saliva Analog

The product called Boar Better is composed of three molecules that are found in boar saliva. These pheromones enhance the teaser boar’s effects on sows and makes sow sexual behavior clearer.

Pheromone Contraindications

There are very few pheromone side effect, although there are reports that they may cause some cats to panic rather than become calm. Also, the diffused pheromones should not be used in homes with birds or aquariums. There are no known drug interactions to pheromones.

Conclusion

Pheromonotherapy may be useful for your animals. The only way to know is to talk to your veterinarian and if it is deemed safe, give it a try and see if it works!

Dr. Lainie Kringen-Scholtz is associate veterinarian at Twin Lakes Animal Clinic in Madison, South Dakota. 

This vet report is provided in conjunction with Twin Lakes Animal Clinic and Howard Animal Clinic. Questions? Send an email to Lainie Scholtz, DVM at lainiescholtz@gmail.com, call 605-256-0123, or write 45305 SD Highway 34 Madison, SD 57042.

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Tri-State Neighbor Columnist

Dr. Lainie Kringen-Scholtz is Associate Veterinarian at Twin Lakes Animal Clinic in Madison, South Dakota.

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