Stressed Pets Can be Helped by Music Therapy, as Well

If your four legged friend has been struggling with stress and anxiety, music therapy may be able to help them.

Image courtesy of Unsplash.

Music therapy is known to have a great deal of mental and physical benefits on humans. From helping to heal psychological and physical medical problems, to relieving stress, music therapy can be extremely beneficial in helping to improve health and wellbeing. The same goes for that of our furry friends, too. Studies show that certain types of music can actually help dogs by reducing anxiety and lowering heart rate, specifically within shelter dogs. 

An orange tabby cat sitting on a carpet in front of a window

Animals may need music therapy if they are under a great deal of stress, or easily made anxious. Image courtesy of Unsplash.

Why would animals need music therapy?

Animals could be stressed for a variety of reasons. When it comes to rescued pets, it is hard to determine what they went through before their rescue that has caused them stress and trauma in the past. Dogs and cats who are abused may be stressed when around men because they were abused by a man, and they may never forget that. A dog who was attacked by another dog while on a walk may be consistently afraid to go on walks, or even be afraid to leave the house. 

On a smaller level, a cat who got shots on her first trip to the veterinarian may be afraid to go back for years after. Whatever the cause of the stress may be in an animal, it can be hard to identify what those stressors are, let alone figuring out how to alleviate the stress. 

Golden retriever with tongue out being petted.

Watching your animal’s actions to identify change in behavior is the best way to see if they are stressed. Image courtesy of Unsplash.

How to identify stress in animals

There are a variety of ways that you can identify stress in your animals, but it does vary from animal to animal, and species to species. Cats, dogs, horses, guinea pigs, and bunnies will not all have the exact same stressors, so you just have to pay close attention to your animal, what makes them unique, and identify whether things change in their behavior at any point in time. These are just a few examples of signs of stress in animals:

  • Changes in eating habits
  • Excessive sleep
  • Lack of sleep
  • Unwarranted aggression

There are also physical signs you can watch for in the moment, such as pinning of ears, running away from certain sounds or people, tucking their tail, aggression only towards certain people, and raised hair, just to name a few. 

Brown dog laying on a dog bed with his tongue out

Many things can cause stress in animals, but travel and trips to the vet are two of the most common. Image courtesy of Unsplash.

What creates stress in animals?

Some of the most common stressors in animals are travel and the veterinarian. Car rides and doctors appointments can be difficult, especially when they are associated with one another, and doctors appointments are not generally the most fun (for humans or animals). There are other trauma-caused stressors that vary from animal to animal, as well. 

Animals can experience three different types of stress. Those include physical, physiological, and behavioral. The way an animal deals with stress is determined by a great deal of things, including the species, breed, and past trauma. 

Physical Stressors

Physical stress can be brought about by an injury, whether that be past or present. This can be memories of an environment or activity that injured them in the past, or it could be that they are currently injured and experiencing stress because of the pain they are in. If your cat was injured while playing in a certain room of your house, she may avoid that part of the house and show signs of anxiety and stress when near that room. 

Physiological Stressors

Physiological stressors are often things that are things such as hunger, thirst, heat, or cold. This can be due to an abuse situation, where an animal was starved or left outside, and the animal is reacting from memories. An example of this is with rescued animals– animals who were once starved will likely be very protective of their food for years after they were rescued, so they may get anxious around feeding times. 

Behavioral Stressors

Behavioral stressors would include things out of the animal or owners control (to an extent), such as being around new people, being around people who fit the physical appearance of someone they may have been abused by or hurt by at one point, or also just unfamiliar surroundings in general. An example of this may be if your pet is young and has yet to be to the vet, this can be a scary place for them, with many other animals around, cold tables and people poking and prodding at them. This can cause trauma and create behavioral stress if they don’t have a positive experience. 

Multi-colored cat sleeping on a velvet green chair

Music therapy can be a useful tool to calm down animals in high stress situations. Image courtesy of Unsplash.

Music therapy for animals

Music therapy can be extremely beneficial for animals in high stress situations. If music can create a space for them, it can help to calm them down and reassure them that they are safe and protected. While some pets react well to things like Thunder Jackets and exercise, some pets need a bit more TLC than that, which is where music therapy comes in. 

Music therapy can be specifically helpful when played at veterinary clinics for animals who are afraid of the vet. Not only does this benefit the animal, but this music can help to keep the owners calm, as well as the staff at the office. This would be a mutually beneficial practice, and it is one that is being taken up at a variety of veterinary clinics around the world. 

Another place where music therapy can be helpful is in car rides. Although many dogs enjoy car rides, other animals (including some dogs) find car rides to be extremely stressful because they associate them with things that induce anxiety, such as going to the vet. Utilizing music to calm them down while in the car will create a more pleasant experience at the destination. 

Striped cat laying on a red couch

Keeping an eye on your animal’s behavior is the best way to identify stress. Image courtesy of Unsplash.

Overall, music therapy can be a very helpful tool when trying to calm down animals who are stressed or overwhelmed. Music can be pleasant for animals, regardless of stress level as well, so playing some music for your furry friend every once in a while wouldn’t hurt either way. Ultimately, you just want to keep an eye on your pet to note changes in their behavior so that you can keep them safe and healthy. 

A stressed and anxious dog is not a safe and healthy dog, as consistently high blood pressure and heart rate can lead to other problems. Animals who are anxious can also be dangerous to themselves, other animals, and people, so it is important to observe your animal’s behavior and make sure that they are doing well mentally and physically. Animals give us their all, so they deserve us to give that right back to them.

Savannah Dawson
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