NAD Finds ThunderWorks can Support Certain Claims for Canine ‘ThunderShirt,’ but Recommends Advertiser Modify Certain Claims

New York, NY – Feb. 19, 2015 – The National Advertising Division has recommended that ThunderWorks, LLC, modify or discontinue certain claims related to the company’s “Thundershirt,” a pressure wrap designed to relieve canine anxiety, including claims that “ .. thousands of vets agree – our ThunderShirt is the easiest, safest solution for noise anxiety.”

NAD determined that certain of the company’s claims were supported by the evidence in the record.

NAD is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation. It is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

The advertiser in this case presented evidence that included the results of three studies – the 2011 and 2012 ThunderShirt Dog Anxiety Surveys and the CanCog (canine cognition) Dog Science Study. The issue before NAD was whether the evidence provided a good fit for its claims, including superior performance claims.

Following its review of the evidence in the record, NAD determined that the advertiser provided sufficient substantiation for claims that related to the percentage of dogs who “suffer from some sort of anxiety” and the percentage of cats that “suffer from anxiety or fear issues, as well.”

NAD determined that the advertiser provided a reasonable basis for its claim that the ThunderShirt is “validated” through a scientific study and consumer use research.  However, NAD recommended that the claim “Our product is validated through substantial scientific studies and research,” be modified to reflect that fact that only one scientific study on the ThunderShirt was conducted.

In support of its claims that the ThunderShirt is the “Most effective anxiety solution as voted by veterinarians,” and “. . . thousands of vets agree – our ThunderShirt is the easiest, safest solution for noise anxiety,” the advertiser relied on the portion of its 2011 Dog Anxiety Survey which contacted a random sample of veterinarians in the ThunderShirt database and rated their satisfaction with various dog anxiety and fear solutions.

The results showed that of the 149 respondents, 126 indicated that they had tried a ThunderShirt with at least one client.  The report concluded that of the 126 veterinarians who tried ThunderShirt, 98 percent saw some success. Further, ThunderShirt received the highest satisfaction rating for “efficacy” as compared to drug treatment, training or pheromones.

NAD determined that this survey reliably shows that 126 respondent veterinarians rated ThunderShirt as the “most effective anxiety solution,” but found that use of the phrase “voted by veterinarians” implied a level of evidence beyond that offered by the advertiser.

NAD recommended that the advertiser modify the claim to more accurately reflect the evidence on which it is based by stating that ThunderShirt was “rated” or “reported” the “most effective anxiety solution” by 126 veterinarians.

Further, NAD was concerned that the substantiation provided by the advertiser is not a good fit for the claim that “. . . thousands of vets agree – our ThunderShirt is the easiest, safest solution for noise anxiety.”

The survey evidence did not address the “safety” or “ease of use” of the product as a treatment for noise anxiety compared to drugs, training or pheromones and did not provide a reasonable basis for comparative superiority claims with regard to veterinarian’s preference of ThunderShirt with regard to the noise anxiety.

NAD noted that the survey results did not support the broad comparative superiority claim that ThunderShirt is the “safest” solution.  Further, NAD noted, Finally, the results of a survey with 126 respondent veterinarians cannot be extrapolated to support a claim regarding the preference of “thousands” of veterinarians.  NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue the claims that “. . . thousands of vets agree – our ThunderShirt is the easiest, safest solution for noise anxiety.”

NAD also recommended that the advertiser discontinue the claim that the ThunderShirt “is the best solution for dog anxieties caused by thunderstorm, travel, separation and much more.”

NAD noted, however, that nothing in its decision precludes the advertiser from communicating the comparative success rates of various types of dog anxiety solutions, provided the company clearly discloses that the its claims are not based on objective performance measures, but rather on consumers’ ratings of their own experiences with dog anxiety.

NAD recommended that the advertiser either discontinue the claim that “ThunderShirt’s patented design applies a gentle, constant pressure that has a dramatic calming effect for over 80% of dogs,” or modify the claim to more accurately reflect the percentage of dogs for which use of the ThunderShirt resulted in “excellent” improvement in symptoms of anxiety and clearly disclose that the claim is based on a customer satisfaction survey.

NAD recommended that the advertiser either discontinue the claim that “A survey of ThunderShirt users shows that over 80% of dogs show significant improvement in at least one anxiety symptom when using ThunderShirt” or modify it to more accurately reflect the percentage of dogs for which use of ThunderShirt resulted in “excellent” improvement – 25 percent – in at least one anxiety symptom.

NAD recommended the advertiser modify the claim that its product has helped dogs and cats “overcome” their anxieties to more accurately reflect the underlying evidence that ThunderShirt helps dogs and cats reduce their fears and symptoms of anxiety.

NAD recommended that the advertiser either modify claims based on 2011 Dog Anxiety Survey to specify that the survey was based on “1,201 dog owners,” or that it was based on responses from owners of a total of approximately “2,000 dogs.”

In its advertiser’s statement, ThunderWorks said it supports industry self-regulation and appreciates the NAD’s efforts to that end. The company said that “we stand firmly behind all of our product claims and disagree with some of the NAD’s conclusions.   However, to avoid any potential confusion, we are happy to address the NAD’s concerns and to accommodate the NAD’s recommendations going forward.  We thank the NAD for its professionalism and courtesy during this review process.”