Can Our Pets Absorb Our Illnesses?


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emotional freedomI 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.

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


Judith Orloff, MD is a New York Times bestselling author with the upcoming book The Genius of Empathy: Practical Skills to Heal Yourself, Your Relationships and the World (Foreword by the Dalai Lama). She has also written The Empath’s Survival Guide and Thriving as an Empath, which offers daily self-care tools for sensitive people. She integrates the pearls of conventional medicine with cutting edge knowledge of intuition, empathy, energy medicine, and spirituality. Dr. Orloff specializes in treating empaths and highly sensitive people in her private practice and online internationally. Her work has been featured on The Today Show, CNN, Oprah Magazine, the New York Times and USA Today. Dr. Orloff has spoken at Google-LA, TEDx U.S. and TEDx Asia. More information about Dr. Orloff’s Empathy Training Programs for businesses, The Empath Survival Guide Online Course and speaking schedule at

Connect with Judith on  FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

17 thoughts on “Can Our Pets Absorb Our Illnesses?

  1. Remarkable stories of animals taking on our pain.
    I have a small dog( Havanese/Lhasa Apso, just over 1year old and she is very intuitive.
    Animals are so much more entuned with what is going on around us, so incredible.
    She is my constant companion, and best support system and I too love being there for her.
    I have a bond with animals that I have with no other.
    They are here to teach us, making them the best teachers in the world if we only open up our hearts to the possibilities.

  2. I have a 5 (almost 6!) year old Rottweiler named Brink and she is the sweetest dog ever.
    I found out last October that I had breast cancer at the ripe age of 30. I’ve gone through chemo, had a bilateral mastectomy and reconstructive surgery in May and thought I was done. Then was told at the end of June that chemo pills and radiation might be a good idea due to my diagnosis, age, and no known family history. Hey, whatever to save my life and keep me kicking for my 11 year old daughter Emma, right?
    The chemo pills were almost worse than IV chemo and I was having a horribly rough time. I finished the pills and I’m going on week 3 of 6 of radiation.
    My sweet dog has never failed to keep my spirits up. Keeping me company, making me laugh(she’s the funniest damn dog!), and sleeping next to me on my bed every night. No shame in our game!
    Then, just this October, I found out she had a tumor on her liver. Almost a year after my diagnosis, she got hers…some timing, right? I couldn’t afford the CT scan and surgery so I decided to monitor her in the meantime, hoping to get to tax season before anything progressed out of control.
    On Sunday, yes, 1 day after Christmas, I noticed a large lump where her liver is. I took her to her regular vet today and was told that she needs to go back to the vet they referred me to when we found out about the mass. They don’t have the means here like they do in the state’s capital.
    As I was sitting there in the vets office, looking at my sweet Brink and crying my eyes out, a thought hit me. She’s taking my cancer. Maybe my cancer would’ve returned, maybe I was going to be worse off if it did. Maybe treatment would literally kill me. Maybe I would die from the cancer itself leaving my 3 best friends behind; Brink, my cat Ivan, AND my beautiful daughter!
    I don’t know what the outcome will be yet, but I know she traded her life for mine. I think Brink feels that me dying would mean not just losing me, but Ivan and Emma whom she adores. She would lose all of us, which would be so much worse. Most importantly, Brink knows Emma needs me.
    I don’t believe in coincidences. Everything happens for a reason. I know she’s saving my life, but how do you deal with the survivors guilt? This is all my fault. It’s my fault she’s dying. She’s not just a dog. She’s MY dog. My best friend. My best friend who got me through the loss of my mom—who was my best friend too—and my stepdad because of a car accident just 4 years ago, who got me through losing my sister-in-law shortly after, who got me through the stress of my many custody battles which is still ongoing, who got me through the loss of my mom’s dog—whom I adopted when they passed—a year ago to the exact date. Who continues to get me through the depression and anxiety that has sky rocketed over the past 4 years. The guilt I feel is staggering. I’ve cried more for her than I’ve cried for my own craptastic situation.
    I’m my heart and soul, I know she’s dying so I can live. But that survivors guilt…

  3. I could easily relate to all that’s been said by people commenting on this moving subject – our pets are indeed greatest empaths and shower us with their unconditional love. My 16-year old cat whom I loved so much, my alter ego (he was adopted from the street 14 years ago and was living with us until September 18), passed away and took my medical conditions with him…. this spring I was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism and in summer my cat lab test indicated the same issue. It’s been 3 weeks since he was gone, and today my lab tests came showing grand improvement – everything is within the normal reference range. That’s so obvious for me and all close people to me…we all feel it on an intuitive level…

    This world would not be the same after we loose our best friends in furry coats with their big hearts… 🥲❤️

  4. I have a precious 4 pound chihuahua that is almost 9 years old. Her name is Bindi Jujubee. She is so smart and understands that sometimes I come home from work exhausted and that I am too tired to go for a walk. Even if her energy is very high she will mirror my energy and calm down even to the point of napping with me. It is as if she knows how I feel and wants to feel the same way. It is amazing.I do not know what I will do without her. I always pray I go first. It would be to difficult to lose Bindi she is my angel and healer.

  5. I had a 4 month old rescued paralyzed shihtzu. About a week ago, my best friend and I were together on the bike. As soon as he dropped me home, 5 mins later he met with an accident.
    Now before leaving the house my shihtzu,my baby was perfectly alright but I came to my room only to find her dead in her crate.
    I can’t help but think what if this sudden death was her taking the threat that was on me onto herself

  6. Reading all of these true stories, I have to share mine. My beloved pooch, Raven, adopted me thirteen years ago, four years into our life together, I developed Crohn’s/Colitis/arthritis, and almost passed twice. Pooch was beside me during my darkest hours, spooning me, being affectionate, witty, funny, protective, my travel companion when I felt well, and being my one earthly constant. Since diagnosis, I have had severe anemia, traditional medications did not help. Finally, this year, my anemia levels began to miraculously increase (I have tried and failed biologics, steriods, oral chemo, abx, herbal remedies, almost everything to remedy the diseases, and decrease anemia). My anemia levels began to increase just before Thanksgiving 2020, with labs confirming, and I began to have a monthly cycle again, the first in almost one year. I went from a size 00 to a size 4 this year, and my legs actually have muscle again. Around Thanksgiving, my beloved began to show signs of decline (loss of muscle, arthritis), two different vets blamed old age, so I kept her comfortable, and loved. She showed more signs of symptoms, but I thought it was due to her “age,” as vets suggested, and accepted it as part of our lives now. Fast forward about three weeks, Sunday morning, December 14, my beloved lost her balance, fell, vomited, fell again, and showed signs of stroke. I talked with my vet that Sunday, and my beloved seemed to get a bit better until night began, then her legs gave out and she collapsed. The next morning, she woke me coughing at 5am (she rarely coughed). Fast forward to that evening, my vet worked us in, and immediately ran my beloved’s chemistry. Much to our chagrin, my “always healthy, no issues whatsoever” pooch had developed anemia to the point her serum was yellow, she had a fever, super low platelets, and a host of other bad things, including possible hemorrhaging, all out of nowhere. Her heart was strong, and her kidneys functioned properly (keep in mind she was 13). The vet could make no promises if she would get better, and said he was afraid she would fall (due to lost muscle mass, and arthritis) and bleed out, and he gave the option to send her home with corticosteroids and a wish. The decline my baby had over those last 24 hours made me realize I could not put her through more. Her breath was metallic, she had a rattle in her breathing (both sudden onset), and I feel sure when she collapsed she began to hemorrhage. It was a no brainer, gut wrenching decision that I am still very raw, and utterly gutted over, but I decided to end her suffering. I cradled my baby’s warm, fluffy head in my hands, and have her the biggest smile I could muster as she passed. A part of me went with her. Two days later, I am quite convinced that she took on my anemia, muscle loss, and part of my arthritis, so that I could have a much better quality of life. I’m early forties. I truly believe she took on as much of my illness as she could handle. Words just cannot express. I thank the Good Lord that we had thirteen wonderful years together.

    1. Wow… beautifully expressed and we are sooooo very sad for you losing Raven… we all loved her, including Kiwi…. she was truly an Angel. ❤️🙏😘🐾

  7. My granddaughter was diagnosed with infantile seizures at 4 no. Old. They started to wean her just recently from the medication as she is nearing 2 years old. She has been responding well with no new seizures but her dog Buddy a boxer mix who is very close to her at about 5 years old has just started having seizures. I can’t help but think he took them from Adalynn! I think the bond that animals share with their humans could very well be that strong. My daughter is getting him on the same meds that my granddaighter is coming off from. Only God knows the power if love! 💘

  8. I am recovering from Lymphoma, finished chemo, and am told that after my PET scan no cancer cells were detected, big relief. However 6 weeks after being diagnosed with stage 3 cancer, my faithful shadow, a 7 year old Staffordshire bull terrier, Jessie, became ill, vomiting and diahrrea everyday. Took her to our vets for 6 weeks, no help at all. Changed vets, a week later, with many tests and scans she was diagnosed with Lymphoma too. Did she take my cancer so I can live? After reading this posts I believe so, she will not be as lucky, dogs do not recover from Lymphoma, although we win, and live, we loose the greatest prize, our beloved companions and to me our family member.

  9. I’m a empath ,when I was 28 I had to have my bladder and womb removed 7 months later my male bunny was diagnosed with bladder tumour, my female rabbit passed with a blocked bowel 2 years later my bowel was perforated and now I’m due a iliostomy, my 2 year old bunny passed with severe bronchitis and asma, I also suffer with ,my cat when neutered had 2 wombs !! And lastly I lost my beautiful bunny who was 6 last week to another bladder tumour, now where my bladder was there was a lump ,last night couldn’t feel it ,I’ve told spirit I dont want my animals suffering for me ,

  10. I’ve had several illnesses and I notice lately my knee has quit hurting and it was hurting tremendously but now my dog has an issue with his shoulder I was wondering if he took my pain and suffering from me

  11. My roommate came down with a bad respiratory infection and coughing his head off . He seemed to get worse and worse, will he beloved 12 year dog started coming down with the same symptoms. He began getting better slowly as his dog was getting worse as every hour that past. The vet said he had a bad respiratory infection with a touch of pneumonia.

  12. I had a powerful experience just 2 wks ago as my 12 yr companion, a chocolate lab, was passing. We were so connected that when he was taking his final breaths, I was unable to breathe. He looked at me and we both felt his body stopping together. The harder it became for me to breathe that calmer he became. I have had a lifelong struggle with addiction and the past several months were my worst. I believe my companion died to save me from myself. It seems that the more I gave up or lost my will, the sicker he became. He was perfectly healthy 8 months ago. No illnesses or injuries. I felt him mirroring me in his passing and I promised him I will do better. ❤💔❤ I believe he saved my life.

  13. I agree. I saw my parent’s dogs pass away from no real reason other than to let them move on from the house my sister passed away in. They so wanted a fresh start and no reminders of that home. I feel that their dogs sacrificed themselves.

    Having seen that, I always tell my dog, my cross to bear is mine, don’t you go taking it on. I will someday learn what it is and I’ll need you then as much as I do now (which is alot).

    1. My german shepherd of 12 years has been by my side through many fun times and times when I needed his protection. Two years ago, I was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. My dog never left my side and never left my room where I spend my time recovering after surgery. I went through chemo and radiation. Now, I am in full remission. As I began to feel stronger, my dog began losing weight in spite of having a good appetite. He was later diagnosed with brain cancer and passed away 4 days ago. It dawned on me when my son commented that our dog took on my illness to save my life. He always protected me and I cared for him until he couldn’t walk any longer. He was a guardian angel and I miss him so much for all the joy and love he provided to me and my family. RIP my sweet Gino! Our pets sense more than we do at times and it is important to trust them.

      1. Thank-you Dr. Orloff for this very informative article and information.
        I have just discovered that I too, am an empath. I am 65 yrs. old, and just learning this now!

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