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Pheromones and 25 years of pheromonotherapy: what are they and how do they work?

02 April 2021
13 mins read
Volume 12 · Issue 3
Figure 1. Flehmen and the vomeronasal organ.


The capacity of animals to communicate via pheromones is long established and, for generations, pheromones have been unwittingly used by man to manage the behaviour of animals in agriculture — using the chemicals produced by an individual member of a species to alter the behaviour of another member of that species. More recently, insect pheromones have been used in managing insect infestations of crops. However, approximately 25 years ago the French veterinary surgeon, Patrick Pageat, began to investigate the production of pheromones in both farm and companion animals and how synthetic analogues of pheromones could be used to improve animal welfare, creating a new field in veterinary medicine — pheromonotherapy. This article aims to summarise the main developments in pheromonotherapy over the last 25 years.

Behaviour problems remain a major underlying cause of abandonment and euthanasia of companion animals, particularly the dog and cat (PDSA, 2020). In addition, anxiety and fear-related behaviours of companion animals within the veterinary practice environment are a major basis for owners delaying the presentation of animals for essential veterinary treatment. For approximately 25 years there has been a growing wealth of evidence to support the use of synthetic analogues of canine and feline pheromones to assist in the treatment and prevention of the development of behaviour problems (Landsberg, 2015). Such products have, in combination with environmental management, behaviour modification and, where necessary, concurrent medication, supported the behavioural welfare of millions of companion animals, worldwide. Yet many veterinary staff remain unsure of the nature, mechanism of activity and advantages of the use of pheromonotherapy within patients' homes or within the practice environment.

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