Dog portrait with headphonesFor many years, we have been fascinated by the impact music can have on memory, emotional state, and even healing from physical injuries and illnesses. Amazingly, the more we learn about music therapy and its benefits to humankind, the more we find that this same knowledge can be applied to our four-legged friends.

How Does Pet Music Therapy Work?

Thanks to the initial psychoacoustic research conducted on the effects of sound on shelter dogs (Kogan, Schoenfeld-Tacher & Simon, 2012), we have learned that certain types of music can help reduce anxiety, lower heart rate and respiration, and alleviate certain behavioral challenges in pets (such as chronic barking).

Additional research has concluded that there are specific qualities in certain musical arrangements that soothe anxious pets. These are compositions that use longer, sustained notes, consistent rhythm, less complexity (a single instrument) and a slower tempo.

Essentially music therapy works because all animals are attuned to sensory cues, including sound. Music sends sound waves (vibrations) that are processed by the brain, which in turn will create a response in the animal that can cause a wide range of physiological changes. Loud and sudden noises might incite an increase in adrenalin, while repetitive and gentler sounds will often relax the nervous system.

This discovery is not only important in reducing the stress levels of pets housed in crowded and noisy shelters, but it also sheds light on ways we can implement music therapy in veterinary clinics, boarding facilities, and in our own homes.

Music Therapy Soothes and Heals

Anxiety in pets is unfortunately all too common. From fear of thunderstorms to strangers, the impact of phobias, anxiety, and destructive behaviors can negatively impact our pet’s health, safety, and quality of life.

That is why the initial philosophy and goals of music therapy were to help pets better cope with these conditions in a way that is noninvasive, safe, and effective.

Since this therapy has proven to be advantageous in reducing anxiety, researchers have also found music therapy to be beneficial to pets with chronic pain, such as reducing the amount of medication needed each day and helping them sleep more comfortably, when played prior to bedtime.

Other ways in which music therapy is being used include:

  • In veterinary clinic waiting areas
  • During surgeries
  • In boarding facilities
  • At animal shelters and rescues
  • While receiving grooming services
  • During therapeutic sessions
  • To help pets cope with thunderstorm or noise aversion
  • While traveling by car
  • In coping with residential moves and other household changes

Amazingly, our understanding of the role simple sound plays in stress reduction and healing seems to be expanded upon every year, as more veterinary professionals and others interested in the health of animals embrace this modality.

At the Whole Pet Vet Hospital & Wellness Center, we are applying this incredible therapy by utilizing its benefits during acupuncture sessions, as both therapies work in a complementary manner.

We also use therapeutic music during end of life services, when making a beloved pet and their family as comfortable and relaxed as possible is so important.

Future plans include playing a variety of these sound therapy compositions in our waiting areas and exam rooms, including areas for post-operative recovery.

For at-home use, we recommend Through a Cat’s Ear, Through a Dog’s Ear, and simple, slow-tempo instrumental compositions using the harp, flute, and piano.

If you would like to learn more about pet music therapy and its benefits, or any of our gentle, noninvasive modalities, please contact us.