We know how much music can affect not only our day but our general mood and how we approach a situation. But what about the effect music has on our pets? Part of our Fear Free Certification at East Bend Animal Hospital is the use of calming music. So how does it work, why does it work, and how can we implement it at home?
How it works:
Research in the area of the effects of music on pets is small but growing quickly. The effectiveness of music or other auditory stimulation for stress relief will vary widely among different animals. This is due to a range of circumstances including sensitivity and tolerance to different sounds, outside stimuli, and the physical shape of their head which affects auditory acoustics, how a sound is translated in the brain.
Adding music is just one part of the process in reducing stress. In order for the music to be as effective as possible, we must also consider limiting other noises that could be a distraction, visual distractions, and maintaining controlled surroundings. Once these other circumstances have been addressed, music will aid in drawing focus away from what is causing the fear, anxiety, or stress, and help support a calming environment.
Nine recent studies were done to track the effects of music on dogs in a high stress environment from dog boarding to veterinary clinics and even police canine training facilities. The studies found in a majority of dogs exposed to slower and softer music, they spent more time in resting positions such as sitting or laying and far less time vocalizing or standing.
Why it works:
Dogs and cats have an innate ability to distinguish different sounds. This is important for instinctive reactions to determine whether they should flee or fight in response to a sound in their environment. Today, we can see this ability come into play when our pets are in a new situation and we are able to help redirect their focus.
Cat-specific music has been developed using certain sounds that have been studied to produce a positive response in felines. Because it is still a rather new development, there is little evidence that it proves more effective than regular human classical or calming music.
Entering our Fear Free clinic:
When you enter our Fear Free clinic, you will notice that we have calming classical or spa-like music playing in the lobby and in the rooms. The purpose of this is to set the experience for both you and your pet.
This is a two part process. The first part is creating a sense of calm for the owner. Because animals are so aware of their owner’s emotional state and scent, they often replicate the emotion we are exuding. Therefore, playing calming music sets both the client and the patient up for success.
The second part is the effect the music has on the pet itself.
Fear Free incorporates multiple tools to help your pet during their visit and it has been found that using these tools in conjunction with one another is far more effective than by themselves. Treats to reward and distract, species-specific synthetic pheromones to reduce fear and anxiety and create a sense of calm, gentle intermittent touch, as well as calming music.
How to use at home:
Keep music therapy in mind if you are having guests over or exposing your pet to more stress than they are used to. Offer them a controlled environment away from the stressful situation where they feel comfortable. Minimize any excess noise and play classical or soft, calming music quietly to help distract, redirect, and calm your pet.
Music is a wonderful part of our lives and is now becoming a wonderful part of our pets’ lives. The more we delve into the effects music has on our pets, the more we can cater a supportive experience to them, helping to create the best Fear Free experience we can.
Written by: Harriet Burquist
“Can Special Music for Cats Reduce Their Stress at the Clinic?” Fear Free Pets, 3 Apr. 2020, fearfreepets.com/can-special-music-reduce-stress/.
Engler, Whitney J., and Melissa Bain. “Effect of Different Types of Classical Music Played at a Veterinary Hospital on Dog Behavior and Owner Satisfaction.” Abstract: Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association, American Veterinary Medical Association, 15 July 2017, avmajournals.avma.org/doi/10.2460/javma.251.2.195.
Lindig, Abigail M, et al. “Musical Dogs: A Review of the Influence of Auditory Enrichment on Canine Health and Behavior.” Animals : an Open Access Journal from MDPI, MDPI, 13 Jan. 2020, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7022433/