Calming effects of music during animal surgeries

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Over the years, various studies (Wells et al., 2002; Kogan et al., 2012) have illustrated the positive benefits music therapy has on dogs.  Not only can auditory stimulation mask ambient noise that may otherwise trigger vocalisations but classical music, and even the audio-book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: The Chronicles of Narnia read by Michael York, has been found to reduce barking in kennel environments and promote resting behaviours, such as sleeping.

Sounds activate the limbic system, linking emotion to memory and this is why music creates associations to particular contexts.  For example, whenever I hear The Cranberries track ‘Linger’, I’m suddenly transported back to being 16 years old and nursing a broken-heart!  Now a new study, published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, has tested the influence music may have on cats during spay surgeries.  Although the sample size was small, this research has produced encouraging results…

So, what’s the study all about?

Researchers wanted to investigate the impact different types of music has on cats’ nervous systems and relate this to the depth of anaesthesia.  The study involved 12 cats, and the physical markers tested were the cats’ breathing rate, and diameter of their pupils.  Headphones emitting the three different genres of music (pop, classical and heavy metal) were placed over the cats’ ears at three different points during the surgery.  The team found classical music produced the lowest breathing rate and pupil diameter compared to pop and heavy metal.  Consequently, playing classical music in surgical theatre might help in allowing anaesthetic doses to be reduced which would minimise the undesirable side effects of surgery, and promote patient safety.

With classical music being such an ‘easy to implement’ tool to promote calmness, let’s hope more veterinary surgeons utilise this not only in waiting room areas but during operations too. 


Kogan, L.R., Schoenfeld-Tacher, R., and Allen, S.A. (2012) ‘Behavioral effects of auditory stimulation on kennelled dogs.’ Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research 7(5) pp. 268-275.
Wells, D.L., Graham, L., and Hepper, P.G. (2002) ‘The influence of auditory stimulation on the behaviour of dogs housed in a rescue centre.’ Animal Welfare 11(4) pp. 385-393.

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