Friday, January 30, 2015

Fear and Guilt. Why these won't help your pet get better, and why our pets are smarter than we are.

Chloe smiles for our selfie.
The emotional attachment that we have with our pets is undeniable. It is the reason we take those cold early morning potty walks, go out of our way to purchase the gourmet snacks, kibble, sweaters and personalized collars, and choose to stay home on date night rather than leave the kids at home.  Our love for our companions drives us to baby talk and bedside cuddles. It also causes some of us to be crippled in the decision making process.

Those emotions also leave some us to be enslaved to an emotional roller coaster of inner turmoil.

You can't have one strong emotional attachment, like love for our pet, and not have the rest of the emotional baggage that goes along for the ride.

Guilt and fear are the ugly step sisters to love. I have to remind myself that my clients might not admit it, but much of their reasoning, reactions, and behaviors are due to guilt and fear.

These two terrorists harbor nothing positive for you or your pet when it comes to healthcare.

As your vet I will admit that I get afraid too. I also have a decade of experience to remind me that there are always consequences. Fear of knowing the truth doesn't allow you a different truth. It just provides you a shorter list of opportunities. Fear of anesthesia only leaves you with regret when the operable mass, dental disease, or failure to spay at 6 months old is now your pets death sentence. Fear of cost will cost your conscious. Fear of treating to spare your pet the pain of a treatment is an unfounded assumption.

There isn't one fear in your heart that we haven't thought of, planned for, nor provided an answer to. Say it out loud to us. We will listen and we will be your pets champion. BUT, this discussion can only happen with the foundation of trust in place.

You have to trust in your heart that we have your pets best interest in our hearts. If you don't nothing that follows, nor any decision that you make will feel right, settle peacefully, nor help you face the same emotional hostages the next time.

I know that we veterinarians can seem a bit reserved and composed when we talk about all of the scary things we do routinely. But, doing them routinely keeps us emotionally able to perform our jobs. Would you want a crying hysterical surgeon standing over you? No, we can't concentrate on your pet, or our task, if we are in a fog of fear, guilt, or emotional instability.

I had a very good reminder of these the other day.

One came in the form of a Pawbly question. Monalisa asked;
"Can a vitamin liquid supplement cause your 3 year old cat to die prior to your pet having a severe sickness?"

Here is my answer;
I receive many questions from clients reeling from the loss of their pet and desperate to try to identify what happened to ease their guilt and despair. The answer is always incredibly difficult to answer. Primarily because I empathize with the terrible burden of pain that it is to bear losing a pet.

So, first, I always remind my clients that their greatest gift to their pet was their love to them. It is the greatest joy to share your life with a pet, and the hardest thing to lose them. BUT, without you they may have never known love, or laughter, or what a real home is. That is everything. You were everything to your pet and I am sure your pet is grateful for the time they had with you.

Many pets die without us knowing why or what happened. Some of them can hide or mask signs of illness and this makes understanding that they need medical help difficult.

Can poisonings or toxicities occur? Yes, I am always very conservative with the products I recommend because the labeling and rules on pet products are not as strict and stringent as they are with human products.

Is it likely that it was the supplement? Probably not. But there is really no point in beating yourself up over loving your cat. I'm sure that you were trying to provide them the best life possible.

I hope that this helps, and please don't hesitate to ask about how we can help you care for your pets. That's what we are here for.

My deepest sympathies.

Your pet knows that life is something that you live in this moment. No fear, no regrets, no second to trade for this one. They also know that you are the best

And from a friend I received this;
I would like to talk to you about my dog who is 10. I am terrified about his lumpy leg. He had FNA twice in recent years. It was diagnosed as a lipoma, but so big now. Feel OK talking to you. 
If he needs surgery I think I'd like you to do it.

My friend also sent me this; The Secret Reason Your Clients Are Afraid.

My answer back;

"I'm happy to see you both. Please call the office and schedule an appointment."

That was 5 days ago. No call and no reply from my very devoted pet parent friend.

I sent a note asking if she had gotten my reply? She confessed that her fear was crippling her. She was so afraid she couldn't pick up the phone and call my office, or reply to my email.

"What if I look at it and decide it isn't significant enough to even discuss removing? Why don't we take it one step at a time?"

Where do I think my best advice lies? Well, I suppose we all need to be brave enough to open up the dialogue by opening up our mouths, confessing the emotions of our hearts, and build a meaningful relationship centered around trust.

Your pet lives in the here and the now. They are free from guilt and fear and live with love and joy. It is our job to think and act for a happier and healthier tomorrow. Be proactive and become the master of both your destinies.. and always keep a little bit of faith  in your heart.

Related Blogs;
There Has To Be Mercy Before Money.

Too Afraid To Fail. When Your Fear Costs Your Patients.

How Do Our Perceptions Lead Us?

To ask a pet question on just sign up and ask away. All questions are free to ask and the Pawbly community will add their thoughts and opinions. Pawbly is free for all to participate.

If you would like an appointment with me, or any of the other amazing people at the clinic please find our information on our Jarrettsville Vet website or Jarrettsville Vet Facebook page.

I am also on Twitter @FreePetAdvice.

1 comment:

  1. Krista,

    Thank you for using my situation as an example, because I have a feeling I'm not the only client who has ever procrastinated due to fear!

    Reflecting on my situation - in terms of procrastinating and "deciding not to decide" - I remembered something I learned in grad school when I was seeking my counseling degree. It's a model that describes stages of change, and I'm bringing it up because it shines a light on some of the mystery in human behavior when it comes to decision-making, and why we delay. The model was originally intended to describe the process of change in the context of addiction, but it applies to many other things, I think. The model is known as Prochaska's "Stages of Change."

    Studies of change have found that people move through a series of stages when modifying behavior. While the time a person can stay in each stage varies, the tasks required to move to the next stage aren't. Certain principles and processes of change work best at each stage to reduce resistance and facilitate progress.

    There are five stages of change, and I think they're relevant to a situation like deciding whether or not to face one's fear and take action to overcome it. With respect to my dog, for example, I was stuck for a long time in the stages known as "contemplation" and "preparation."

    1) Pre-contemplation: the point at which an individual has no intention to take action in the foreseeable future (in studies "foreseeable future" = about 6 months.) In this stage, the individual is either uninformed or under-informed about the consequences of their behavior.

    2) Contemplation: In this stage, a person INTENDS to change in the next 6 months. They're more aware of the pros of changing, but they are also acutely aware of the cons.

    3) Preparation: the point at which one intends to take action within the immediate future (defined as one month.) At this stage there is likely to be a plan of action in mind.

    4) Action: self-explanatory, but here a person has taken specific, overt, observable action toward change.

    The 5th stage is known as "maintenance" - the change has been established, the behavior has been changed, and now the task becomes maintaining the change.

    I'm not bringing this up as an excuse, because it ISN'T. It’s more like a description of the anatomy of the decision-making process.

    Is it helpful to know about this? Maybe. Maybe it can help veterinarians (and human doctors) to be able to identify at which stage in this process the client/patient is, and work with them accordingly. Which maybe means altering expectations of client/patient behavior, when you are aware of which stage they're in. Or, even if you’re not aware of the stage, at least knowing there are stages might help.

    For example, somebody in the pre-contemplation stage is just not going to take action, no matter how loudly you are conveying your message. But the message may help that person begin the transition into contemplation, because you've made them aware of the pros of change, as well as the cons.

    In the same way, if a client/patient is stuck in the preparation stage, moving them into the action phase might best be accomplished through establishment of trust, as you wrote in your blog. You also talked about opening up your mouth and confessing the emotions of the heart, which can only occur where there is trust.

    Thank you for being someone I can trust.