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Hillside Veterinary Centre
116 Wareham Road
Corfe Mullen
Wimborne, Dorset, BH21 3LH
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Pheromones and a silly dog's tail...

4th February 2015
Pheromones and a silly dog's tail...

What happens when your pet becomes unhappy or unsettled in certain situations?

With the recent cold weather we have been making good use of our wood burner at home to warm the lounge and the rest of the house – lovely to come home to on a cold evening.

As most dog owners will no doubt agree, the primary reason for having a fire or wood burner is for said dog to lie as close as possible to the source of the warmth without combusting and fall nicely asleep.

This was the picture for us at home as well, at least until this year. Kipster, our border terrier (often seen ‘helping out’ on reception at Hillside) decided that the wood burner was suddenly a very scary thing to be avoided, leading her to vacate the cosy lounge and take herself off into a cold kitchen.

Not known for her bravery, her tiny dog brain had reasoned that the occasional quiet click of the expanding stove was simply too terrifying and soon got to the stage she would predict this and run out of the lounge as soon as the burner was lit. Rather than get used to the noise it seemed she was getting worse and worse every day.

This phenomenon of noise phobia is something many dog owners may recognise whether it’s fireworks, balloons, Christmas crackers or the like. Rather than accepting the noise, dogs will usually get worse over time. Dogs even seem to be able to predict the fearful noise and soon will respond to early warning signs. For example dogs that develop a phobia of travelling in the car may start to panic as soon as the car keys are picked up; in extreme cases dogs with firework phobia may even get fearful of the dark, associating this with the nasty stimulus.

So what to do?

Unfortunately trying to reason with your dog, in this case telling her she was being pathetic and was missing out, doesn’t seem to work (trust me I tried). Specialist pet behaviorists may well employ a range of techniques to help desensitise the animal to the scary stimulus.

It’s always well worthwhile having a chat to a professional (in our case at Hillside, Helen Murphy, our Head Nurse has a deep interest in this area and can give much useful advice).

So, for Kipster?

Well it seems that pheromones are the answer. Easily dismissed as aromatherapy for dogs this is something that can be genuinely helpful. Clever people have identified the natural comforting scent hormones or pheromones released by a mother dog to reassure her puppies called Adaptil. We used the collar version (you can also purchase a spray) and it seems little Kipster was duly calmed and comforted.

Over a few weeks the wood burner has been transformed from a scary noise producing monster to a source of a most pleasing, tummy toasting warmth and we now have our lovely dog back with us chilling in the lounge rather than shivering and shaking in the kitchen.  Delighted to report that Kipster's tail is well and truly wagging again. A fantastic result!

For further information on things discussed in this blog see:

Helen – our friendly Head Nurse who can offer general advice to a more formal consultation if required. Contact us for an appointment.

Adaptil - a proven solution that helps puppies and dogs learn, settle, travel and cope with kennels.  It certainly worked in Kipster's case.

Feliway- don’t forget about your cats as they too can suffer with this kind of anxiety. In their case, we recommend Feliway and you can find out more here by clicking the link.

http://www.lowcarbonenergycentre.co.uk/wood-burning-stoves-fires - no vested interest honestly, but a bit of information on why everyone should have one!


Chris Devlin  BVSc MRCVS

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Just to add, we make extensive use of pheromone therapy at the surgery - we use diffusers in dog and cat ward, and in the consulting rooms. A liberal application of feliway spray to the hands and table before we examine cats makes a huge difference in many cases - I often get people exclaiming that their cats is so much more relaxed - these pheromones really do work!

, 5th February 2015 Karen

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