THOUGHTS ON THE CONNECTIONS BETWEEN DISEASE AND EMOTIONS
This article is a mosaic of some of the most interesting observations I have made in more than 20 years of being a vet.
I am so glad I didn’t listen to my father, who thought that I should become an architect and not a vet. I do appreciate architecture, however, I don’t think I would be able to learn as much about life if I was an architect. Becoming a vet gave me the opportunity and privilege to see the lives of many people and animals unwind right in front of me. Candid and real stories of love, concern, worry, heartbreak, care, compassion and friendship.
In a way, I feel like I’ve lived many lives in the course of one lifetime. I’ve had the opportunity to observe patterns, similarities and differences and see outcomes of certain ways of life. Some people had several animals who suffered constant, but unrelated, problems and others never needed to come for anything more than preventive visits. I started to see that, with some exceptions, this is no coincidence.
I love people watching, especially when dogs come with their humans. It’s humorous to see that we choose dogs who look like us, then dress in the colors of their coat and oftentimes have the same personality as our four-legged friends. We are obviously drawn to dogs that we resonate with and also to those who can teach us the best life lessons.
Choosing a dog is a big deal and I encourage people not to let anyone else choose for them. We are more likely to do a better job than someone else.
Dogs are our moons
I’ve observed that most dogs become more like us the longer we live together. This phenomenon can be compared to two tuning forks vibrating on the same frequency when they are in one room.
When I mention this, people ask why I think dogs are influenced by human energy more than the other way around. I think it’s because dogs learned to be in tune with their humans as a survival tactic during thousands of years of evolution. Some dogs and breeds are so sensitive that they can register our thoughts before we even speak them and react to them in a split of a second. They are finely tuned to us through an invisible telepathic connection, which has served them well in the course of their evolution except when their humans are unwell.
The closet of withheld emotions
One of the causes of disease is the energy of withheld emotions. Examples are grief, betrayal, accident or shock. Our body records these events on the energetic level and once in awhile, the recording “replays” in a form of anger, fear or frustration. The problem is that often people who experience negative emotions try to suppress them, push them aside and pretend that they do not exist. Many holistic practitioners see this suppression as one of the primary causes of disease. If we accept that our dogs are affected by our energy field, the way to keep them healthy is to deal with negative emotions.
If we suppress them, the likelihood of behavioral problems and physical disease in our dogs is greater.
Look at your dog and know how you feel
While working with my patients, I could clearly see that many health conditions start in withheld emotions or psychological trauma. The energy of such an event appears to imprint in our mind, but also expresses in our physicality, our face and the organs. For example, the liver stores the emotions of anger, lungs are the organ of grief and the kidneys are where fear resides.
It’s no surprise that dogs with a short temper often suffer from liver disease, fearful dogs suffer from kidney issues and those who experience heartbreak and grief suffer more frequently from heart and lung disease. They also appear more likely to react when their person suppresses their emotions.
Are we willing to be honest with ourselves?
I’ve seen some of the biggest life improvements and miracles of healing when people start to see that their dogs mirror them.
It’s easy to see this when everything is pink and rosy, however, when life gets tough and our dogs start acting up, it’s much harder to accept.
When I was working full-time in my busy veterinary practice, I worked more than I should. Long hours, tons of stress and not enough rest. I was experiencing clear signs of burnout. Around the same time, my dog Skai started to act up and be much more territorial, he tried to prevent dogs from coming in the clinic. Doing so, he helped me see that my life was unsustainable and I made the necessary changes.
If you catch yourself being uncomfortable with the above paragraph, I ask you to take a deep breath. You are not to blame you for your dog’s problems. There are many factors playing a role in the development of a disease. I’m just bringing this up so you can listen to your dog’s messages with a greater awareness.
Anger is the emotion that no one wants
I don’t like the word aggression because it sounds too harsh. In fact, with a few exceptions, the deep core of anger consists of fear. It can be fear of abandonment, worry about being hurt or a survival instinct.
In my opinion, dogs are often aggressive because people in our society have not come to terms with anger as an emotion, one that everyone has from time to time. Perhaps it is because we’ve been taught from a very early age that anger is not good and it should be hidden and suppressed. The problem is that suppression usually makes it stronger.
Perhaps this may be the reason why so many dogs react only in the presence of their owners. They feel the tension and they are more on edge.
A few years ago I was helping a client, let's call her Amy. Her concern was that her dog Bruno was aggressive, especially on leash. He was a very sweet and kind dog in the office and I needed to see what was going on his walks. I decided to join Amy and Bruno for a walk. We started walking and as soon as we saw another dog in the distance, I saw Amy tensing up, her breathing stop and Bruno flipped Kujo style. This happened a few more times until I asked if Amy if she would be ok passing Bruno’s leash to me and breathe deeply.
As soon as another dog was coming near, I took a deep breath and trusted my gut that it was safe to drop the leash. Bruno ran towards the other dog, barked a few times, sniffed the other dog and that was it.
Many leashed dogs act out because they are frustrated that they can’t go through the sniff and greet ritual. This is not to say that there are no seriously aggressive dogs out there, but they are few and far between.
Note: A short temper or angry streak may be more present if there is toxin build up in the system. I believe that every dog benefits from a semi-annual herbal liver detox. Behavior issues may also stem from deficiencies of minerals and vitamins because, based on my experience, most foods, even the most organic ones, are deficient in some nutrients. If you would like to know if there is something missing in your dog’s diet or what his or her toxin levels are, you can purchase a mineral and heavy hairQ test to find out.
Fear is based in the primal survival instinct. In traditional Chinese medicine, the organ connected to fear is the kidney. Kidneys often get stressed when a dog eats processed dehydrated kibble that sucks water out of the system in order to be digested.
There are many reasons why dogs are fearful. I will mention two lesser-known causes here:
1. I have seen some well-adjusted dogs becoming fearful after routine rabies vaccination. In some cases, this vaccination appears to trigger phobias. If you have seen such a change, I recommend giving one dose of homeopathic Lyssin 200C and repeat it in two weeks.
2. Lack of socialization can also leave puppies unprepared, dysfunctional and frightened. Social interaction with other dogs would happen in nature from an early age. If you were told that your young puppy shouldn’t be socialized, don’t believe this myth. You can measure your dog’s antibody (protection) levels at 12 weeks and if they are present, puppies should be socialized with other dogs to “learn the ropes.”
Hyperactivity and dogs
Hyperactivity is often caused by the wrong exercise. Many people believe exercising their dogs very hard will make them settle down. The paradox is that this often makes them more hyper.
Extended periods of ball retrieving on land or water may make some dogs’ prey drive stronger. They often start chasing bikes and skateboards and while they may get physically exhausted, they sometimes still become more hyperactive. They are not much different than hyperactive kids who play computer games and don’t get enough sleep.
Dogs have evolved to sprint only for a few seconds or a couple of minutes chasing prey. Long periods of sprinting also makes them prone to back and knee injuries. A variety of different activities and exercise is the best choice.
Carbs, grains and toxic food
These are another reason for some dogs not feeling well. We all know that junk food and sugar make kids less well behaved and dogs aren’t any different. Food is the fuel for every cell in the body and as far as I know, dogs do not graze in the field of wheat or corn. Heavily processed foods are to the body what chemical fertilizers are to plants and soil. They create imbalances and deficiencies that affect our dogs’ behavior.
My advice is, do not let anyone sway you away from natural and raw food by saying that dogs get more aggressive on such a diet. The opposite is true. I also suggest supplementing your dog’s food with essential supplements.
Boundaries and consistency
If you’ve ever seen a child causing havoc in a local supermarket or a dog running around like a maniac, jumping at people and knocking down children, you know what it feels like. While some children and dogs are genetically predisposed to be that way, they also often suffer from lack of guidance and poorly defined boundaries, which make them anxious. This may look like misbehavior on the outside.
Dogs and kids actually feel more secure when they have consistent, loving and predictable guidance, even though they may rebel on the surface. It’s ok to restrict their freedoms for the safety of others and themselves. The problem is that many people go from extreme to extreme and one day have no boundaries and the next day are control-freaks. When you say “done playing” or “leave it” you should mean it. When you say no food at the table, be loving, but firm because a dog who gets food from the table on and off suffers more than the one that doesn’t expect it.
Generally, I suggest a praise and reward for positive behavior and ignore the negative one if it is safe. If your dog learns that being a drama queen gets them attention, you may have daily drama for a lifetime and that’s no fun.
Boundaries should also apply to guests and family. I tell people, what’s ok and what’s not around Skai when they are visiting. I ask them to respect my house rules, unless they want to be our dog’s servant on a full-time basis. I really believe that giving Skai boundaries and love at the same time made him such a great, easy, secure and obedient dog.
People sometimes feed their dog whenever they ask, bow to every whim and whine. It’s as if they’re worried their dog wouldn’t love them if they were firm. The truth is dogs love clear boundaries and consistency.
Blame and guilt
Before I finish, I have one more thing to share. I’ve seen many people blaming themselves for their dog's health problems or for making mistakes while raising them. It is as if they forgot that life is for learning how to do things better. Mistakes are made, accidents happen and we need to forgive ourselves for being well-meaning, but flawed humans. We all are. What matters is that we have a positive intention, open mind and do our very best.
© Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM