Arts Therapy & Animals

Creative Arts Therapies
Music Therapy & Animals
Report by Martha Ryan

Professor Ivonne Murphy
Empire State College

Video of Experiment With Cats 

Annie Linnea's experiment with chanting to distressed animals in the shelter.

Use of New Media
For Pet Music Therapy

This video is part of a series of videos prescribed to treat pets during times of distress.

Articles on Music Therapy for Dogs

You heard right. It’s music arranged for dogs and orchestrated to ease their stress. It’s being employed specifically in veterinary settings where barking dogs, discomfort and pain are the rule. Psychoacoustic researchers and holistic veterinary practitioners swear by it.

An interesting collaboration between a sound researcher Joshua Leeds, a veterinary neurologist Susan Wagner DVM (no relation to the master, I presume), Juilliard trained musicologist Lisa Spector and the Apollo Chamber Ensemble has led to a novel therapy for stressed dogs. Discussion of the research, a book and recordings are available at


This electronic creative piece will be structured as a resource web page. This page will share findings from researches conducted by others on the effect of music on animal behavior. The findings will be recorded with their sources and a summary paper will be completed connecting the information from all the academic and video research sources to explore opportunities to use music therapy to ease pet distress or encourage healing.

Creative Arts Therapies - Music Therapy For Animals

Understanding that both human and animals derive psychological and physiological benefits from listening to music, the concept of arts therapies using musical patterns appear to be an option worth exploring. College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Georgia Professor Leanne C. Alworth wrote a review article in the Labanimal on line publication of February 2013 explaining the effects of music on animals. In her article she shares her views on the use of music to improve the welfare and relaxation of lab animals. 

She derives her findings from the study of the human brain and how multiple regions including the cortex and sub cortex processes music. She shares information about how African grey parrots and sulphur-crested cockatoos spontaneously move in time with music indicating that the samle ability similar to humans to synchronize to external rhythm. Alworth (2013) also explains how this term known as entrainment has better relationship between animals who have vocal cords and vocal learning capabilities. However, Alworth (2013 also shares that for species like rats, social communication occurs in the ultrasonic range. She shares in her article a wealth of scientific research supporting the many neurological effects of music and sound on animals.

Connecting the scientific effect to applications, Alworth (2013) also shared how music has been used to measure stress by connecting the stimulus of music to heart rate and blood pressure. Alworth (2013) shares how new age music has been reported to have a calming effect on mice in comparison to classical or pop music or in relation to silence.

Similar findings on the subject of the effect of music in animals is a topic captured by a report published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology in 2014 entitled Chimpanzees Prefer African and Indian Music over Silence. The report states that based on evidence, non human primates have an innate ability to distinguish between music properties such as types of rhythmic or melodic sounds. The soothing or positive effect of music in the chimpanzees behavior was observed when chimpanzees spend more time in the areas closest to the source of Indian and African music suggesting their preference and comfort with the music. According to Sugimoto (2010) chimpanzees preferred tonal music rather than the atonal music from Japanese music.

Solving the mystery of music on human behavior is a topic discussed by a study conducted by Leonid Perlovski (2014) entitled The Cognitive Function of Music. In her report she shares her hypothesis that music helps to unify knowledge and maintain physic balance. Her fundamentals on how music has a deep role in emotions allows to connect the same pattern to animals. Perlovski (2014) helps the readers understand the strong relationship between music and the neurological activities in humans. This information helps us connect the same brain behavior to animals.

Connecting Perlovski's (2014) studies with Alworth (2013) we found similarities in the studies on how both humans and animals react to music. I reflected on the vast scientific data provided and understood that there is enough evidence to explain the positive role arts therapy through music can have on distressed animals.

An article published in PetMD by Dr. Patty Khuly (2008) entitled Through a Dog's Ear: Music therapy goes to the dogs, revealing information is shared about the effects of music on animals beyond relaxation. Khuli (2008) summarizes the findings of veterinarian professionals and their conclusion about music therapy indicating that music is More than merely a relaxant because music causes changes in brain activity, neuro-humoral, cardiovascular and immune responses.

To enhance this report we researched current practices on domestic animals and found multiple organizations who are using a variety of methods to promote music therapy on animals. The use of new media now provides pet owners with the opportunity to play images and music that can soothe pets at expected times of stress such as scheduled fireworks, or during times of owner's absence at home.

Reflecting on the available information on this topic I realized that those professionals and individuals who are in tuned with spirituals and artistic vehicles, had a stronger understanding of the effects of music therapy on animals without the need of science or medical tools. Their observations, in my opinion, had similar or greater validity because their connection to pets was greater than the connection scientists had to lab animals.


Alworth L., MS, DVM, DACLAM & Shawna C. Buerkle, BS (2013) Review - Lab Animal, Volute 42, No. 2, February 2103.

Khuly P., (2008)

Perlovsky L., (2014) Cognitive Function of Busic, Part II, Interdiciplinary Science Reviews, June 2014, P-163-187.

Sugimoto, T., Kobayashi, H., Nobuyoshi, N,. Kiriyama (2010) Preference for consonant music over dissonant music by an infant chimpanzee. Primates, 51, 7-12.