Pet owners beware – CSU researchers say there’s a “bad moon rising,” and many cats and dogs may get caught in the crosshairs.
A recent study, headed by veterinarian Reagan Wells of the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, compared emergency room visits of dogs and cats to the moon phases, and found a 23 percent greater likelihood for cats to be admitted during the 12 days surrounding the full moon and a 28 percent greater likelihood in dogs.
“When it’s busy in the ER, you always here people say things like ‘Oh it must be a full moon,'” said Reagan Wells, head researcher of the study. “We set out trying to prove the urban myth wrong, thinking it was nonsense.”
As it turns out, the loony myth, when put to the test, has something to it. But Wells and his team weren’t quick to howl over their findings, as there are still other factors to consider.
“There is a theory that with more light that the full moon provides animals are more active, and therefore more apt to injure themselves,” Wells said. “However, the problem with that theory is that no one type of emergency was more likely than another.”
Reasons for admittance ranged from cardiac arrest, to toxins, to trauma, many of which appear to have no direct connection to extra light. This finding has left the vets puzzled as to what might be causing the increase in visits during the fullest stages of the moon.
What is considered to be a full moon occurs when the moon is on the exact opposite side of the earth as the sun, causing the alignment of the three bodies. This occurs about every 30 days, with the next one predicted for July 30.
The ten-year retrospective study analyzed emergency room visits from 1992 to 2002 at CSU’s vet hospital. Wells said this was the first study of its kind to look at pets.
“I’d like to see another vet repeat it,” he said. “If similar results are found, it could lead to reorganization of staffing at vet hospitals.”
Erick Egger, a veterinarian at the vet hospital, said he believes the study is legitimate and the numbers accurate. Increased visibility during the full moon, Egger said, is most likely to blame for the increased visits.
Similar studies done on humans have produced mixed results. Wells said a study done in England found lunar activity to also have an effect on humans, while a comparable study done in Australia found no connection.
Professor Ernest L. Chavez, chair of the department of psychology, says humans are likely to be less effected by lunar cycles.
“Because there is no data found to support the idea that humans are likely to be affected by the full moon, it could be that our over-developed brains think things through more thoroughly,” he said. “Therefore the moon doesn’t have the same impact, and we’re able to counteract biology.”
But the belief that the moon has a powerful affect is far from dead. According to the Canadian Medical Association Journal, a study done in 2005 found 50 percent of university students believed people act strangely during a full moon – along with 81 percent of mental health professors.
Chavez said that because many hold superstitions about the full moon, they may look for things to go wrong to prove themselves right.
“When our expectation is that something is likely to happen, we’ll find information that proves what we believe is true,” he said. “It’s called confirmation bias.”
Until the copycats come out, it will be difficult to gauge exactly how universal Wells’ really are.
But with a full moon coming later this week, pet owners may want to keep the vet on speed dial. Just in case.
Staff writer Margaret Canty can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.