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Welcome to the Creature Comfort Care Blog.  "Adventures in Veterinary Care"

Full Moon FEVER!

Christina Lehner

I firmly believe that in the unwritten rule of what I like to call “Full Moon Fever”:  Weird things happen on full moons.   The calls typically increase and overall the clinic (or house call service) is consistently busier.  Furthermore, usually there is an increase of oddities—including pet behavior and medical cases.  In fact, I plan my vacations around avoiding full moons!  I spoke with a fellow colleague in the animal industry and she said her friend, whom is a dispatcher with the local police, staffs heavier around full moons.  ALL of my friends and colleagues also agree that this is an epidemic phenomenon. 

There is a big, beautiful, full moon out tonight.  This week has been a very busy one, supporting my theory of “full moon fever”.  This got me thinking…is there any research supporting this? 

In 2007, an 11-year retrospective study by Colorado State University (1992-2002) Veterinary Medical Center supported an increase in veterinary visits on full moons: 23 percent higher for cats, and 28 percent higher for dogs.   Another study published in the British Medical Journal cites twice as many people visited emergency rooms with animal bites during full moons.

“Tawana (Animal caregiver and Medical Coordinator at the Oshkosh Humane Society, right lower) and her dog “Matilda” wear makeshift hats to reflect the full moon luminosity in hopes of avoiding any of it effects.”

“Tawana (Animal caregiver and Medical Coordinator at the Oshkosh Humane Society, right lower) and her dog “Matilda” wear makeshift hats to reflect the full moon luminosity in hopes of avoiding any of it effects.”

Unfortunately, the exact reason why the “full moon effect” is still unknown.  Some researchers think pet behavior may be more precarious during a full moon because it is brighter outside and they are simply spending more time outside or awake at night when the moon is brighter.

Beyond out pets, nature and wild animals have demonstrated documented changes during full moons.  For example, a species of coral has a light-sensitive gene, becomes more active during full moons. A study done in 2006 discovered that prey animals are more apt to stay in a safe place during full moons because the increased amount of light makes it easier for predators to see them. Wild wolves are also less active during a full moon, probably because there are less prey animals moving around to hunt.

This leads to the question of “Why do animals act differently during a full moon?”  I believe this answer may have cross over to the human species as well.  Here are a few possible answers:  Increased Light, Activity, and communication by pet’s when there is a Full Moon: 

Many families acknowledge that their dogs’ bark more during a full moon—I suspect it is because there is more light. More light means they see more aware in general, of their surroundings—and your pet may notice more things, and want to alert you to it, such as a mouse outside scurrying away.  Beyond this, sometimes that increase in light alters our sleep pattern (I can personally attest to this!), and our pets’ may be affected as we. 

Even though the jury is still debating on supplying the research and establishing the cause on the “Full Moon Effect”, I’m going to closely adhere to my experience and will try to leave extra time open on my busy schedule to take more calls during a full moon.  Sometimes I even feel like howling…”HOOOOWWWWWLLLLLLL!” 

 Wells RJ, Gionfriddo JR, Hackett TB, et al. Canine and feline emergency room visits and the lunar cycle: 11,940 cases (1992-2002). J Am Vet Med Assoc 2007;231(2):251-253.