August 19, 2015 Wellness

Music as Medicine

A dog wearing headphones

Music as Medicine

Music has both physiological and psychological effects on listeners. A snippet of song can bring back memories of childhood, a summer romance or a long absent friend. Music appears to have health benefits as well. A study recently published in the venerable British medical journal, The Lancet, analyzed 73 studies of music as medicine. Surgical patients were allowed to choose the music they preferred to hear and doctors monitored their level of pain. Music reduced not only pain, but the need for pain medications, reduced anxiety and improved patient satisfaction – all without side effects and at no cost.

Meow-sic as Medicine for Your Cat

Researchers at the University of Lisbon studied cats undergoing general anesthesia for spay surgery. Each cat wore headphones during surgery. The music piped into the kitty headphones, in random order, included Samuel Barbers’ “Adagio for Strings,” “Torn” by Natalie Imbruglia and “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC. Measurement of respiratory rate, heart rate, blood pressure and pupil size were used as markers of brain stimulation and depth of anesthesia. Cats exposed to heavy metal music, as performed in “Thunderstruck,” were stimulated by the music, compared to cats listening to “Adagio for Strings.” Cats listening to heavy metal had heart rates and blood pressures higher than the other cats in the study. The authors concluded music could potentially be used to decrease the anesthetic dose required, making surgery safer.

Music as Medicine for Your Dog

If you have ever been to an animal shelter with kenneled dogs, you know how loud the barking can be. In an attempt to improve kennel conditions for dogs awaiting a forever home, shelter staff played classical music five and a half hours a day. Barking and stress levels decreased significantly in dogs listening to classical music compared to dogs housed in a “silent” kennel. This result has been seen in other studies as well and suggests music has therapeutic benefits in dogs as well as in cats.

Composing Species Specific Music

Dogs are not cats; cats are not dogs; and neither have the same ears as humans. Given the differences in auditory sensitivity, music preferences likely differ between dogs, cats and humans. Several conservatory trained composers and musicians have tackled the task of composing species specific music. In Music for Cats, Peabody Conservatory trained composer, David Teie, has written music with the feline ear in mind. His compositions are based on feline vocal communication and environmental sounds that pique the interest of cats. The music was composed in a musical language that is uniquely designed to appeal to the domestic cat. Lisa Spector, of Through a Dog’s Ear, teamed with sound researcher Joshua Leeds to adapt classical music for dogs. This Julliard School trained concert pianist has recorded well known classical compositions, but plays the piano using slower tempos and simpler arrangements than the original compositions in an attempt to appeal to dog listeners.

Just like we enjoy listening to our favorite tunes, music can be therapeutic for pets. Based on the research I found, classical music seems to be the current favorite, but try different soundtracks and see if your pet has a favorite.

Tags: amcny, animal medical center, animals, ann hohenhaus, cats, classical music, dogs, julliard, music, pets, therapy, veterinary,

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