all ears: music therapy for pets
Music may well be considered the universal language, as music is a common denominator in all cultures. Listening to music can make us happy, make us sad, make us run faster, make us sleep better, and just generally allow us to enjoy our lives more fully. Studies in human medicine have even shown that some music may make us healthier. Called “therapeutic music,” it has been employed since the early 1800s, when the phonograph was invented. Modern applications involve the use of music therapy to reduce post-operative pain in surgical patients and reduce anxiety in mechanical ventilated patients. These are just two examples of the many benefits of music therapy in human medicine.
But what about our animal friends? Can they benefit from music therapy, or is it all just a bunch of noise to them? As it turns out, music therapy does seem to help them, and it can be applied inexpensively to a number of situations, just as it is in human medicine. You need only do a quick search on YouTube to find numerous examples of the wonder of music therapy to animals.
Music therapy is the use of specific music to help soothe our four-legged friends. Not just any music will do, as some loud, upbeat songs may actually serve to further agitate our patients. Classical music seems to be the current favorite. When the right notes are found, dramatic results will follow. Music therapy has shown to lower the heart rate, blood pressure, and respiratory rate of dogs and cats as well as decrease their anxiety and agitation, making for easier handling in clinical situations.
In addition, music therapy increases endorphin levels, improves immune function, and decreases the amount of stress related hormones found in the blood. And all of these changes are immediate; we don’t have to sit around waiting for medications to take effect! Music therapy is so powerful that it can even lead to the interruption of self-mutilation disorders and other compulsive disorders.
Several CDs and books are available on the topic, with versions for dogs and cats. One series in particular is especially neat, because it represents a collaboration between a musician, a sound researcher, and veterinarians. The end products are called “Through a Dog’s Ear” and “Through a Cat’s Ear,” and they have shown promise in calming our four-legged friends at home, in the car, and in medical or shelter situations. For more product recommendations, check out the “Hear No Evil” issue of fetch! magazine.
There’s an added bonus to the use of music therapy in veterinary medicine – it spills over into our human world. Unless you’re trying to get your pet to listen to music through headphones (NOT recommended, by the way!), you’re going hear the music your pet hears and reap the same benefits. There aren’t many veterinary treatments that can boast those rewards.
Whether your pet suffers from anxieties or not, music therapy might be worth a try. The result may be a calmer veterinary visit or a happier, more soothing home for the entire family!