Let's talk about Doggy Hypochondriacism. Because do you worry about your dog(s)? Sometimes, the reasons we worry stem from legitimate issues. But have you ever found yourself worrying over little things… or found yourself scratching your head confused and thinking- should I actually be worried or is my head just going to all the wrong, worst case scenario places??? Is my dog actually sick?
Today we are discussing the kind of worry that is not productive. The kind of worry where you are getting in your own head and it is only taking away from your overall experiences with your dog. What can you do to reduce or even eliminate that nonproductive worry? Today we discuss what you can do and give a unique perspective on the topic. Stay tuned because it is a topic that is not discussed in any canine first aid course or manual.
But first let’s look at the information we collect that sometimes results in unproductive worry.
As a veterinarian I rely on my clients to obtain arguably the most valuable information when they come in with a sick animal. It is my job to ask the right questions. It is my responsibility in fact, not the owners, to make sure I get all the necessary information from them -the owner- to make the best and most informed decisions surrounding the care and treatment of that particular animal. Needless to say, the person who lives with the sick animal is a wealth of important information… information that I need to extract.
With this “information extraction” I have observed the following: (No, I am not in the CIA)
1) anxiety for both pets and owners is on the rise
2) again, people in general, worry about their pets A LOT
3) The owners that tend to worry the most have the animals with the most issues
4) most owners come in to the clinic with a diagnosis before I have even looked at the pet (thank you Dr. Google.)
I say all this because the information you have is the source of your worry. We need to channel this information and use it a more productive manner. That is what we are discussing here today.
(Side note: I have heard some off the wall pre-exam diagnosis from owners… I have heard everything from “hemorrhoid’s” to “broken breast plate” to more X-rated diagnoses. (I will spare you here because I am still blushing))
All jokes aside, I must say owner’s concerns can be legitimate as well. (Usually here we are talking about senior pets, or pets with a history of ongoing illness/issues) And it’s really sad when the owner’s worries are confirmed, and there is a diagnosis tagged with a poor prognosis.
(By the way short disclaimer… there is no judgement written into this post! This is my observation. And if you think there is something “off” with your pet or he/she isn’t acting right is ALWAYS best to have them checked out. Better safe than sorry! ALWAYS! And you worry because you are a good pet owner who wants the best for your dog.)
Anywho! We are here to talk about the not-so-constructive worries. We are going to confront the worry wart in your mind… that little devil on you shoulder that tells you unproductive things about your dog’s well-being… when all he did was sneeze once after running through a field of wildflowers. (kinda a nice visual… am I right? (pro tip: don’t let the sneeze ruin it!!))
Because let’s face it. There is a fine line between a healthy awareness and downright WORRY. And I am here to tell you (not judge you because I am by no means perfect and I have my fair share of worry when it comes to my own dog) but let me REMIND you… that the act of worrying about your dog does not serve you OR your lovely pup.
Worrying only takes away from the grand, overall, delightful experiences of dog ownership. You know the series of small moments that make this life worth living- (I know I’m flirting with that edge of cliché and woo woo here so I’ll stop).
So, what the heck should we do about it? I am getting there, I promise.
The solution is two parts. One part internal, and one part external.
Let’s start with the internal work. This is a topic that none of the other first aid instructors are talking about. But a lot of first aid is a HEAD GAME. And along with this point it is important to remember that we as humans are taking advantage of the privilege that we have - to own and care for a dog. So, with that said let’s practice some gratitude right now.
The first step is to realize how very fortunate we are to have our dogs in the first place. Take a moment and just feel thankful. Like really feel it. Because the power you have comes from feeling that gratitude. And do not dismiss or overlook the importance of this step. This is an easy actionable step you can literally practice right now, and it can change your perspective and your life. I will explain this shortly.
Now. Make a commitment to practice this daily. Even if you need to put a sticky note on the bathroom mirror. Do not take for granted the power of gratitude. Gratitude opens you up to a place of receiving MORE of what you already have and love. Which is that warm, fuzzy feeling of you thinking and feeling: “Dang. I have the best dog in the world. How lucky am I to have this privilege to share my life with the world’s greatest dog.”
You are damn lucky my friend. But remember you create your own luck with hard work and gratitude.
And that my friends. When you practice that and really feel it… in itself is life changing. Yes, I am repeating myself because it. Is. that. important.
Okay you got gratitude down and I am now beating a dead horse. (can I say that?)
Next… is EDUCATION. Education and knowing what’s normal from what’s not normal is paramount!!!
If you aren’t sold on the benefits of not only learning, but mastering canine first aid… let me just remind you.
Ongoing education opens your mind to unique perspectives and experiences that allow for a more enriched life. Knowing your shit is life changing. Knowing your shit teaches you how to be aware when the time is right… and knowing your shit teaches you to let go of the little, unimportant details and stressors that don’t really matter. (I’m still practicing this with negative Facebook comments. Insert rolling eyes emoji)
So, what I am saying here is that a sound education allows you to filter. Filter out the noise. Only allow in the stuff that is useful for solving bigger, overarching problems, and dispose of the rest. There is so much information to process in this day and age of social media and the constant access to the news.
That being said, if we do not have a background or solid knowledge base to refer back to when things are “off” with our dogs how on earth can we filter the noise from the stuff that is vitally important to our pet’s health and well-being?
(I have found that not watching TV has helped immensely in this department. Therefore, I do not own a TV, watch the news, or look at the Facebook newsfeed)
Let’s look at it this way: When something is really wrong, your pet is most likely trying to tell you that. And if you have access to a veterinarian in that moment then perfect! They can solve the puzzle for you. But what about those situations where you are far away from veterinary care or the clinic is closed? Your brain is processing a million things and decisions in that moment… and trying to do so under a large amount of stress.
Education allows you to filter the information that is useful (ie your physical exam findings, and a critical and objective look at your pet’s recent history) from the noise surrounding the situation (ie cookie cutter answers on Dr. Google, or the opinion from a stranger in a Facebook group who worked in a vet’s office 35 years ago).
Misuse of available information is where doggy hypochondriacism stems from. The fear of the unknown and confusion surrounding certain conditions or ailments and the various symptoms our dogs will display. And the thoughts in our head: what if we miss a symptom? What if we do the wrong thing or make the wrong decision? My dog can’t verbally tell me what’s wrong so worrying/stressing/freaking out is the clear and obvious solution!!!!
No, my friend. The clear and obvious solution comes to you when you have the perspective to keep yourself centered (gratitude), you are aware enough to remain focused on the information in front of you (what your dog is telling you- i.e. symptoms), you have a sound education to filter the bullshit going through your brain (unproductive thoughts), and a sound education to filter the unhelpful or harmful opinions of others (often a keyboard warrior).
And this will lead you towards your next tangible action step, and a clear and obvious solution.
Live by these principles you might find your doggy hypochondriacism lessens or goes away completely. Live by these principles you might find you and your dog are exposed to less accidents, danger, and illness.
So, some of the work we need to do here is internal, invisible work, and it sometimes might be difficult to see or monitor progress. Your progress in this department can be assessed by how you feel. The educational side of the work is more actionable, external, and therefore easier to see progress and results.
You have to get your head on straight first. Gratitude, I promise can do this for you. Then you need to do something to educate yourself. For example, when you take a first aid course the act of going to the course might give you a boost of confidence, you may take home certain ideas or even homework that you can continually practice.
Or, if you want someone to hold your hand through the process and give you ongoing support and direction on a monthly basis, our Wanderdog First Aid Membership Site is the answer. This membership site will be all the credible information you need in one place. It is organized in a way that promotes and encourages continual learning. Therefore, you are able to master canine first aid. Not just learn it. And enrollment is opening again on July 25th. After this enrollment closes, we will only be open for enrollment quarterly. So, stay tuned for more info! Or shoot me an email with your questions. I LOVE getting questions from you guys!!!
In the meantime, do the head work. Both internal and external. Practice gratitude and get excited about canine first aid education so you keep on learning.
Don’t forget to love on your pup today and be grateful for him or her.
Until next time, Cheers!
Libbie Fort, DVM