Ongoing Research Projects


Different studies have observed an improvement of the welfare of zoo animals, dogs, cats, horses through olfactory enrichment with essential oils. Nevertheless, all these studies are pointing out the urge to conduct further research in order to increase the diverse possiblities of essential oils.  Indeed, further understanding of the effects of olfactory enrichment with essential oils can significantly increase animal’s welfare and improve the relationship between animals and humans. This is the reason why Vet Ethology conducts, together with different universities, ongoing research on olfactory enrichment with essential oils.

Our research conducted at the Blue Cross animal shelter in Oostende (Belgium) has shown that the diffusion of a blend of 9 anxiolytic essential oils reduces high posture of dogs over a period of 8 weeks, making the dogs more relaxed. This happened both in dogs close to the diffusor as in dogs at a greater distance of the diffusor (max 10m). More research is needed to investigate an effect of distance and concentration on dog’s welfare.
Thanks to our colleges and the Belgian Press for their support! 

Our research study, conducted in collaboration with Pisa University and Odisee University College, has revealed positive effects of olfactory enrichment with essential oils on shelter dogs welfare.

Uccheddu S., Mariti C., Sannen A., Vervaecke H., Arnout H., Gutierrez Rufo J., Gazzano A., Haverbeke A., 2018. Behavioural and cortisol responses of shelter dogs to a cognitive bias test after olfactory enrichment with essential oils. Dog Behavior, 2, 1-14, doi 10.4454/db.v4i2.87

Olfactory exposure of Lavendel essential oil helps dogs to relax quicker.

Janssens S., 2018, bachelor thesis at Odisee University College. Supervisors: Dr. Adinda Sannen and Dr. Anouck Haverbeke. Article under review.


Vet Ethology is taking part in a project, conducted in collaboration with ENVA, Veterinary University of Paris, where the welfare of horses living in active stables is assessed and compared to other housing structures (stables, paddock paradise…).

Titeux E., Haverbeke A., Lavillerie C., Gilbert C., 2018. New housing in horses : are “paddock paradise” and active stables really improving welfare? Proceedings of the 12th International Veterinary Behaviour Meeting Poster, Berlin, Germany.

At Vet Ethology, we are starting, step by step, a life project in which we are going to establish a small eco-sustainable equine structure with a focus on increasing biodiversity and improving horse’s welfare. Despite some prejudices that say that both can’t go together, some pilot studies have shown that it is possible.
Thanks to Regionaal Landschap Dijleland vzw for believing in our project. Thank you to the students who will help us realize this project! 


If you have had at least two dogs, one of whom died while the other was still alive, you are invited to participate in this web-based online survey.

The first paper of the “Mourning Dog Project” is now available online: Uccheddu S., De Cataldo L., Albertini M., Coren S., Da Graça Pereira G., Haverbeke A., Mills D.S., Pierantoni L., Riemer S., Ronconi L., Testoni I., Pirrone F., 2019. Pet Humanisation and Related Grief: Development and Validation of a Structured Questionnaire Instrument to Evaluate Grief in People Who Have Lost a Companion Dog. Animals 9, 933, 1-14. doi:10.3390/ani9110933 

This survey is part of a research study that aims to explore whether and how a dog and his/her owner may experience grief over the loss of a companion dog. If you had more than one remaining dog, and you so wish, you may fill out one form per dog.

It should take approximately 20 minutes to complete the questionnaire:

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