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Ad for plug-in diffuser for stressed dogs banned over lack of evidence

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An ad for a plug-in diffuser to calm anxious dogs has been banned over a lack of evidence that the devices work.

The television advert for Ceva Animal Health’s Adaptil plug-in featured a dog pawing at the door after being left alone at home, before the owner said: “I tried Adaptil. Just plug it in – easy. You can see he’s relaxed. The same Dude, just better behaved. Now when I’m out and about he’s no problem, which is great.”

A woman’s voice then said: “Best behaviour starts with Adaptil”, while text along the bottom of the screen stated: “Behavioural therapy may be required. Ask your vet for advice.”

A viewer complained that the ad’s claims that Adaptil could alleviate anxiety and improve behaviour were misleading and unsubstantiated.

Ceva Animal Health provided a number of studies which it said showed that Adaptil had anxiety-reducing properties and said the product was proven to help adult dogs cope in challenging or worrying situations, helped to promote learning, and ensured puppies became well-behaved, confident and resilient dogs.

The company said the ad directed owners to Adaptil as a complementary option alongside behavioural advice to help dogs cope with being separated from their owner, and that any additional help required should be sought from a behaviourist or vet.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said consumers would understand from the ad that the diffuser could treat anxiety and behavioural issues in dogs caused by separation from their owners and that, once the device was plugged in, owners would begin to see results with no further training or instruction necessary.

It found that a number of the studies submitted by Ceva to support the advert’s claims were not relevant, did not provide sufficient substantiation or involved sample sizes that were too small.

The ASA said: “Because the advertiser had not submitted sufficient evidence to support their efficacy claims regarding behavioural and anxiety-related issues associated with owner separation, we concluded the ad’s claims were likely to mislead.

It ruled that the ad must not appear again in its current form, adding: “We told Ceva Animal Health not to claim or imply that Adaptil could treat anxiety- related and behavioural issues associated with owner separation unless they held adequate evidence to demonstrate that was the case.”

A Ceva Animal Health spokeswoman said: “We understand the ruling. Ceva Animal Health is the leading science-based company in behavioural products and prides itself on its ongoing dedication to animal welfare through evidence-based practice.”