Dr Judith Orloff's Blog

Can Our Pets Absorb Our Illnesses?

Judith Orloff - Friday, May 01, 2009

Adapted from Dr. Judith Orloff’s NY Times bestseller “Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself From Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life” (Three Rivers Press, 2011)

I love animals. They are powerful conduits of unconditional love. My editor wanted me to remove this story from "Emotional Freedom" about a dog's compassion because it wasn't between two humans. I disagreed and kept it in. Here is an excerpt from the last chapter of the book called "Facing Anger, Building Compassion." I hope you like it. I hope you know that love exists between all sentient beings.


Compassion also provides the crucible for healing miracles to occur. One of my workshop participants told the following story. Two years before, she’d longed to get pregnant but she had a rare, serious type of kidney disease. Her doctor warned that pregnancy would overly stress her body, even endanger her life. Still, this woman’s desire for a baby was so strong she decided to risk it. Fortunately, she stayed well those nine months and her disease stabilized, which isn’t typical during pregnancy, a great relief to her, her husband, and the doctor. However, in that same period, her young Golden Retriever, her constant companion and ?soul-mate? with whom she was so attuned, was diagnosed with kidney failure. Soon after the birth of her daughter, this loving animal died, as if having held on just long enough to see her through.

Though cynics would dismiss as “mere coincidence” the fact that both contracted the same rare disease--especially when the dog had been perfectly healthy--I read this quite differently. For me, it seems rather to be a moving reminder of the interconnectedness of our hearts and the power of compassion. There was a special love between this woman and her dog. Could it be possible for one life to so empathize with another that it can sense, even assume illness? Certainly, something to contemplate. As a physician I know that love can create miracles that defy logical explanation. Selfless giving resonates with such mystery. How wondrous and far reaching compassion can be among all living beings. Each of us is capable of limitless love. The monumental implications of this fact continue to reveal themselves over the years, always giving me chills and re-clarifying my emotional priorities.

Excerpted from "Emotional Freedom" by Judith Orloff MD


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Judith Orloff, MD is author of The Empath's Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People, upon which her articles are based. Dr. Orloff is a psychiatrist, an empath, and is on the UCLA Psychiatric Clinical Faculty. She synthesizes the pearls of traditional medicine with cutting edge knowledge of intuition, energy, and spirituality. Dr. Orloff also specializes in treating empaths and highly sensitive people in her private practice. Dr. Orloff’s work has been featured on The Today Show, CNN, the Oprah Magazine and USA Today. She is a New York Times best-selling author of Emotional Freedom, The Power of Surrender, Second Sight, Positive Energy, and Guide to Intuitive Healing. Connect with Judith on  Facebook and  Twitter. To learn more about empaths and her free empath support newsletter as well as Dr. Orloff's books and workshop schedule, visit her website.

Susan commented on 20-May-2009 02:43 PM
What a beautiful story. I love the idea of limitless love. What else are we here for! We just have to have the intention to see it all around us.
Linda Mink commented on 26-Jul-2009 11:46 PM
This post reminded me of my own experience with my much-loved cat, Gracie. During my first pregnancy, Gracie kept her distance which l never understood as she had always been happy to lay all over me! However, on the day my daughter was born (unexpectedly) six weeks premature, she snuggled into my belly and wouldn't leave me alone. I'm convinced she knew what was about to happen and have always treasured this gift of loving support.

Our faithful dog, Skippy who l always referred to as my 'right hand doggy', (l'm convinced) refused to die until his three favourite people (my two daughters and l)were with him. This was especially poignant because my eldest daughter had been away for two weeks. He held on and held on until she returned home and then died peacefully a few hours later as we supported him until his final breath. It was an honour and a privelege for us to be there with him up until the last with gratitude for the love and faithfulness he showed to us for 14 years.

Ireyna Kimberley commented on 10-Oct-2011 01:39 PM
I can not explain my connection with animals. I only know that my animal companions are as integral to my well being as air, food or water. I truly believe that their unconditional love, acceptance and companionship have helped me, and can help countless
others live a more fulfilled life. It my be judgmental on my part, but I have always been troubled by people who claim that they do not like animals. I take it as a sign of their inner lack of touch or inner emptiness. On the other hand, when I read stories
such as those you have shared, I am gladdened to know that there are others who do feel and who are connected to our animal friends. Thanks for the reminder.
Connie commented on 10-Oct-2011 04:03 PM
it is moving and refreshing to see other people speak of the animals in their lives as intelligent and loving individuals. I have always been very close to all animals.
Carolyn Hastie commented on 16-Apr-2012 09:17 AM
Our animal friends are truly amazing. I've just spent the weekend at workshop in which we worked with horses as emotional messengers and healers. I was the only non horsey person there. I had deep and powerful connections with those horses. Although I've
had deep connections with other animals, I was surprised and profoundly moved by the sensitive and loving, healing energy I experienced from the horses on the weekend. Judith, do you think that this dog in this story 'wore' or took on the pathology for the
woman? I've observed various instances where a baby expresses some disease which seems to resonsate with an emotional crisis in the parent. This area of psychic/spiritual/emotional interaction is crucially important for us to know more about.
amy Hu commented on 05-Jun-2012 08:39 PM
How touching the story is! In my childhood, I developed a special bond with a turkey. He was so big that I would actually ride on him. We were like a team, sticking together all the time. One day he was shot by a neighor; fortunately he didn't die, but
the bullet was stuck inside his left leg. From the day on, I could feel the pain in my left leg when walking. My mother took me to the doctor and did a thorough checkup, but the doctor said I was fine,and he didn't see anything wrong with my leg. I would said
to the turkey, "I know how you feel." Years later, after the turkey died, the bullet was removed, and the pain in my leg was gone. I don't know how to make of it.
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Geraldine Flynn commented on 12-Oct-2012 03:21 PM
I have always loved animals and find that contact with my own pets ( now 3 cats ) as well as others' pets ( my brother's dogs and cats ) has been spiritually nourishing for me. I have tried my best to share this with others - my son, my nephews, children and adults I've worked with as a social worker. Thank you for keeping this perspective in your book and sharing this truth with others. Bless you, Sincerely, Geraldine
Melissa commented on 20-Nov-2012 08:46 AM
I am so happy to have found this blog, and thank you for standing your ground to include this article on animals (editor take note)! I have seven cats (most are rescues) and they bring such joy and satisfaction to my life I just can't put it into words. Even though my husband is not an empath, he does share this love of animals with me. We do not have children so our seven precious little loves are our children.
Mary commented on 27-Jun-2017 04:56 PM
I found this post after an experience that has convinced me that my dog has absorbed some of my mom's illness. My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer about 8 months ago. Since she lives in a rural area, she has been staying with me during her treatments (I live near a large cancer center). After her final chemo treatment, she started having severe back problems -- arthrities, bulging discs, etc (not directly related to chemo; she's had some problems for a long time). About the same time my dog was diagnosed with intervertebral disc disease. My dog's progression has mirrored my mom's. They're on the same medications and everything. My dog only seems to have relapses when my mom comes for a treatment. About the time my dog's problems progressed to the point to require surgery, my mom's problems eased a bit and have continued to do so. My dog was healing well, but then had another 'relapse' when my mom came back into town for treatment. Is there any way to keep my dog from taking on my mom's pain? She's a tiny dog and I worry about her ability to handle it. My mom will start getting treatment (steroid shots) soon. I hope that helps both her and my dog.

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