Adaptive mechanisms in dogs adopted from shelters: a behavioral assessment of the use of a synthetic analogue of the canine appeasing pheromone
Adaptation to a new socio-environment might represent a very hard step for sheltered dogs, because of a higher level of difficulty in coping with unfamiliar conditions. The adaptation process can be logically and scientifically related to the concept of stress and welfare, limiting the success rate of rehoming. A synthetic analogue of the Dog Appeasing Pheromone (Dog Appeasing Pheromone, DAP) is reported to have a reassuring effect in puppies and adult dogs in a wide variety of stressful situations. The aim of the current study was to investigate the effects of DAP (Adaptil® Ceva Vetem S.p.A.) in dogs re-homed from rescue shelters. The study was designed as a prospective open-label clinical trial.
Significant decreases were observed in adult dogs for wandering in the house restlessly (p=0.022) and hiding fearfully in protected corners (p=0.033), whereas in puppies treatment with DAP significantly (p<0.05) improved the reaction towards unfamiliar dogs (p=0.048) and wandering in the house restlessly (p=0.022). In both adults and puppies a significant improvement in interaction with owners was observed. In particular, “looking continuously for the owners” and “following the owners everywhere like a shadow” were significantly improved (p=0.0012 and 0.0016 respectively) in adult dogs. Separation reactions revealed a significant decrease (p<0.05) and in puppies the tendency to vocalize in absence of the owner was also significantly reduced (p=0.0029). Both adults and puppies showed a decreased tendency to wake suddenly in the night (p=0.024 and p=0.026 respectively) and wander around the home (p=0.012 and p=0.026 respectively). In contrast, for house-training no significant difference was reported in adults, whereas for puppies there was a significant decrease (p<0.05) in the mean scores for urination and/or defecation wherever in the house and after coming home. Data regarding the overall assessment suggested a significant improvement in all the efficacy variables considered in the study. The analysis of owners’ degree of satisfaction at the final visit showed that DAPtreatment was considered successful by 84.4 % of owners.
Results suggest thatDAP might improve dogs’ adaptability throughout the first weeks following adoption and can be considered a useful tool for reducing stress in re-homed dogs.