In dogs in shelters does pheromonotherapy reduce stress compared to untreated dogs?
Clinical bottom line
Category of research question
The number and type of study designs reviewed
Two studies were evaluated, one was a prospective blinded randomised placebo-controlled study (Tod et al., 2005) and the other was a prospective unblinded repeated measures study
Strength of evidence
The papers evaluated provide a weak-to-moderate strength of evidence, due to the limited sample size and short duration of the intervention
In both studies pheromonotherapy resulted in a statistically significant reduction in mean bark amplitude but not in duration or peak bark amplitude. Neither study found a significant change in expression of fear-related behaviours in response to a neutral stranger or a stressor
Based on the studies assessed in this Knowledge Summary it is not possible to determine if pheromonotherapy reduces stress in dogs in shelter environments. It cannot be determined whether the small absolute reduction in bark amplitude present in both studies is clinically or biologically significant. Additionally, barking is a non-specific behaviour (Protopopova, 2016; Pongráczet al., 2010; Taylor & Mills, 2007; and Yin, 2002), so these results cannot be interpreted as a reduction in stress without further study.
It is beyond the scope of this Knowledge Summary to comment on any perceived or apparent difference in the effectiveness of pheromonotherapy in the shelter environment compared to the home environment
The application of evidence into practice should take into account multiple factors, not limited to: individual clinical expertise, patient’s circumstances and owners’ values, country, location or clinic where you work, the individual case in front of you, the availability of therapies and resources.
Knowledge Summaries are a resource to help reinforce or inform decision-making. They do not override the responsibility or judgement of the practitioner to do what is best for the animal in their care.