Dogs suffering from storm phobia may hide, pace, tremble or vocalize (howl or whine) during storms. Severely affected dogs may panic and injure themselves in a desperate attempt to escape from the frightening stimuli.
Pheromones are chemicals that trigger instinctive responses in animals. Several pheromones have been well documented in dogs.
Dog-appeasing pheromone is commercially available. It is marketed for its calming effects on dogs. In theory, it should be beneficial to dogs that suffer from storm phobias.
Like diet’s effects on feline diabetes, this sort of theory is easy to test with an unbiased scientific study. The April, 2008 NAVC Clinician’s Brief reports on one such study. From the Brief’s commentary on the study:
The results are clear and show that the use of the DAP [dog-appeasing pheromone] diffuser–along with other behavioral therapy, such as desensitization to storm sounds–can improve the behavior of some dogs with storm phobia.
I am very happy to have a scientifically proven way to help my storm-phobic patients. It stands to reason that dog-appeasing pheromone may have many additional uses. But, as scientists like to say, more research is needed.