I talk to phone consultation clients all the time who tell me that their vet appears to have given up on their pet’s illness. This attitude seems to be counterintuitive for the veterinary profession, but it is not. If we look a little deeper as to how this can happen, we can learn what to do if it actually does happen.
First, we have to look at the structure of conventional medicine. Conventional medicine, whether it is human or veterinary, is based on a plethora of algorithms. Most of us know what an algorithm is; that funny looking diagram of arrows pointing in different directions, branching in other directions, and so on. When a pet comes in with clinical symptoms, we go to the appropriate algorithm and start to try to find the answer. For example: If a dog is vomiting, we use a vomiting algorithm. It starts by pointing towards potential causes. Is there a history of swallowing a foreign object? If so, the arrow points to taking an X-ray of the abdomen. If we do that and find a rock in the stomach, the arrow points toward surgery to resolve the problem. If there is no history of a foreign body, the algorithm points us in another direction for further diagnostics like blood work, etc. It is all about using logical deduction if finding the answer to the problem, which is “What is causing the clinical symptoms?”
The problem with this structure is that it conditions our minds into a mindset of rational deduction. This is not a surprise as the entire philosophy of conventional medicine is based on intellectual reasoning. From the time we enter veterinary or medical school we are taught to think via this process. We used to refer to this as left-brain thinking; that part of the brain that deals with the intellect. Unfortunately, intellectual thinking is just one part of the brain function and the best way for it to work is by using a balanced mindset, one of left brain and right brain function. Right brain function, as it has been called, is all about intuitive mindset, feelings, compassion and awareness of interconnection. For us to be a good clinician it is imperative that we use both.
The problem with using a balanced mindset is that the brain is only capable of using one approach or the other and incapable of using both at the same time. Since intellectual thinking is dominant, and our education and practice has become so conditioned from an intellectual mindset, most clinicians fail to use the right brain function at all. This is very unfortunate since the right brain function (gut feelings, heart feelings) is our guiding resource. Right brain function is only about cause and effect and is incapable of giving us guidance. We must use the right brain function for that and even if we get a glimpse at its presence, the rational mindset will usually jump back into our awareness, trying to explain why it is not the truth. We all have had situations where our gut feeing was telling us something but our intellectual mind over-rode that message and we ignored it, often opting to move the wrong direction. “I felt that that was not what I should have done.”
How does this apply with the vet who has appeared to have given up with our sick pet? It is because the conditioned, rational mind, is telling him that there is no logical reason for continuing to treat the pet as it is certainly going to die. All of his reasoning has told him that continuing any treatment will be a waste of time. So, the vet usually tries to either convince the caretaker of his beliefs or tries to placate the caretaker and uses minimal involvement in doing so.
It is important to realize how the vet’s conditioned mind is working and how it got there in the first place. The intellectual mind is solely based on information and experience. His belief is based on what he has been taught about the disease and his experience dealing with the disease in practice. This has nothing to do with the truth of the situation, but information based on knowledge. This is fine if we have a pet that has a bad tooth that needs to be extracted but it is not fine when we have a pet with a chronic illness.
I could fill the pages with examples of pets who I have helped that their caretaker was told that nothing more could be done for them and that any attempt would be a waste of time. Again, this comes from the story that the vet has concocted due to information and experience and it has all come from one perspective, conventional medicine. I once had a little dog who came to my office paralyzed in the hindquarter. The dog had a herniated disc that had damaged the spinal cord and the dog could not walk, have bowel movements or control its urine function. He has had a full neurological workup, MRI, etc. and from a conventional perspective, it was determined that his spinal cord was permanently damaged and he would never heal. It was recommended that the dog be euthanized.
The caretaker did not want to do so, and the dog was given some steroids in hopes that it might help. Five months later, long after the steroids were finished, the dog was still paralyzed. We started an alternative approach using Chinese medicine with acupuncture and herbs. After six treatments the dog was up and walking and by the eight treatment, he was back to normal. The caretaker was happy and upset at the same time. Happy that the dogs was walking and functioning normally but unhappy that her vet had recommended euthanasia. So, she took her dog back to the vet, put him on the floor so that the vet could witness his normal function. The caretaker said, “This is what acupuncture did for my dog. Why did you not even offer this as a possibility?” The conditioned vet, using her reasoning mind answered, “It was not the acupuncture that helped your dog. It just took time for the steroids to work.” Oh, my, what the conditioned mind can do.
When a vet seems to have given up on your pet’s illness, remember, it is nothing more than mental conditioning by the vet’s mind and is based on probabilities and not truth. Maybe it is time that we lead the way into a new mindset.