By Dr. Becker
Most loving pet owners are intensely aware of how stressful vet visits can be for their four-legged family members. And when a pet must be left behind at the animal hospital for even a few hours, much less a few days or weeks, it can be traumatic.
Dogs and cats are very sensitive to unfamiliar smells, sights and sounds. Strange, potentially threatening noises are particularly distressing – especially for kitties. And this type of stress can affect an animal’s physiologic state.
So is there a way to make visits to the veterinary clinic less upsetting for our furry friends?
Dr. Narda Robinson, a leading authority on evidence-based approaches to complementary and alternative veterinary medicine (CAVM), writing for Veterinary Practice News, asks her fellow veterinarians, “Why not modify our clinic soundscapes to keep stress and anxiety to a minimum and reduce over-reliance on sedatives and other psychoactive agents?”
Dr. Robinson continues: “You can, today, shift the acoustic stimuli to which you expose your patients from stressful to supportive with safe and inexpensive, though carefully selected, music.”
Music as Medicine
In her VPN article, Dr. Robinson references several studies that suggest “music is medicine.”
A 2013 Cochrane review1 concludes that:
“Music listening may have a beneficial effect on preoperative anxiety. These findings are consistent with the findings of three other Cochrane systematic reviews on the use of music interventions for anxiety reduction in medical patients. Therefore, we conclude that music interventions may provide a viable alternative to sedatives and anti-anxiety drugs for reducing preoperative anxiety.”
According to Dr. Robinson, scientific studies point to the significant effects of sound on the nervous system, and the fact that noise in veterinary clinics can either help relieve or worsen pain control in animal patients.
A 2012 systematic review2 of music used as a complementary pain reliever in hospitalized humans found that not only did music have a positive effect on pain, it also decreased anxiety, muscle tension, and heart rate, and reduced the need for opioid pain medication.
The Right Music Can Improve a Pet’s Physical and Psychological Health
Research suggests that pets and humans respond to music in similar ways. A review paper published last year in Lab Animal3 evaluated the effect of music on animals in the areas of physiology, behavior and welfare.
According to researchers:
“Information about the potential benefits of music to animals suggests that providing music may be used as a means of improving the welfare of laboratory animals, such as through environmental enrichment, stress relief and behavioral modification.”
As you might guess, studies also suggest that calming music can have a beneficial effect on animals, while loud noise has a detrimental effect.
But music that promotes a healing response doesn’t have to be classical. Simple rhythms can have a profound impact on an animal’s nervous system by causing changes to heart and respiration rates, brain activity, and spinal cord activation. In fact, rhythmic auditory stimulation (RAS) has been shown to improve walking ability in people with acquired brain injury.4
Through its complex influence on the central and autonomic nervous system, music also has the ability to impact an animal’s metabolism and gastrointestinal motility.5
If you’d like to experiment with calming music for your pet at home, in your car, or just about anywhere you take him – Through a Dog's Ear has a variety of music for both dogs and cats.