Managing Chronic Illness

Chronic Diseases in Dogs & Cats
Caring for a pet with a chronic or long-term illness is an emotional journey. When you bring a pet into your home, you accept the responsibility to care for them not only in good times, but also in tough times.

In a perfect world, all illness and disease would be cured by a single dose of a medication or one course of antibiotics.  While this is sometimes possible, chronic diseases often require multiple treatments and many require long-term management, sometimes for the rest of your pet’s life. Some of the most common chronic diseases in dogs and cats include:

  • Arthritis
  • Other orthopedic conditions
  • Chronic Kidney Disease
  • Hepatitis
  • Other liver diseases
  • Skin allergies
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Cushing’s and Addison’s Disease
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • Hyperthyroidism (cats)
  • hypothyroidism (dogs)

Studies show many chronic conditions have continued to increase in the USA, in some instances at alarming rates. Since 2007, obesity rates have increased by 74% in dogs and 179% in cats. This is associated with other serious diseases such as arthritis, diabetes mellitus, and heart and respiratory disease. Because of this, some insurance companies now offer “chronic disease” policies.

With chronic conditions like these, multiple appointments with the patient and caring staff at Veterinaire Pet Care Full Service Animal Hospital will likely be needed to make sure that your pet is responding well to treatment. Over time, your pet may need adjustments to their medications to help them feel their best. We may need to send for more lab work than an otherwise healthy pet since these conditions and their treatment can affect other organs in your pet’s body. Recheck appointments and lab work ensure that your pet is receiving optimal care.

Overall, it is important to realize with Chronic Diseases that there is no single simple cure, and that management of their condition will require long-term treatment and recheck visits with your veterinarian. But by getting your pet the appropriate care, they can still live a comfortable and happy life for as long as is possible even with their disease.

Common Chronic Diseases of Dogs

The following is a list of common chronic diseases that occur in dogs.  If caregivers notice any of the following symptoms, they should discuss it with Dr. Waxman at Veterinaire Pet Care today.

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Allergies

A disease in which the immune system reacts to environmental stimulus causing itchiness, gastrointestinal upset, or both. Caregivers may notice chewing at paws, repeated ear infections, hair loss, diarrhea, flatulence and vomiting.

Chronic Renal Insufficiency

A disease of the kidneys, in which they gradually lose the ability to properly filter waste and retain water and electrolytes.  May be exacerbated by infections or kidney stones.  Caregivers may notice excessive thirst, excessive urination, vomiting and loss of appetite.

Cognitive Dysfunction

A disease, also known as dementia or senility, which progresses with age and may be caused by the depletion of dopamine in the brain. Caregivers may notice urinary accidents, confusion, pacing, anxiety, trouble reacting to and remembering family members, trouble adjusting to new situations, and sleep disturbances.

Cushing’s Disease

A disease in which the adrenal gland secretes excessive amounts of steroid hormones, such as cortisol.  Caregivers may notice increased thirst and urination, increased appetite, increased panting, a pot-bellied appearance, hair loss and skin infections.

Degenerative valve disease

A disease in which one or more of the heart valves begins to “crinkle”, disrupting the normal blood flow pattern through the heart.  Caregivers may notice shortness of breath, coughing, fainting, lack of appetite, and lethargy.

Diabetes Mellitus

A disease in which the pancreas fails to produce insulin, or the body is unable to utilize insulin that is made, resulting in high blood sugar.  Caregivers may weight loss despite an excellent appetite, excessive thirst, and excessive urination.

Obesity

One of the most common diseases in dogs, in which a dog is >30% over its ideal bodyweight. Obesity contributes to a variety of other diseases including diabetes, joint and ligament problems, and reduced life span. Caregivers should be able to easily feel their dog’s ribs, and see their “waist.”

Osteoarthritis

A degenerative disease that causes damage to cartilage and support tissue around the joints.  Caregivers may notice limping, difficulty with stairs, stiffness upon rising, pain when petted, and inability to jump up.

Pancreatitis

A disease of unknown cause, in which inflammation of the pancreas leads to intra-abdominal leakage of digestive enzymes.  Caregivers may notice lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, nausea, jaundice (yellow color to skin or whites of the eyes) and abdominal pain.

Periodontal disease

A dental disease caused by an accumulation of tartar on the surface of teeth and under the gum line, eventually progressing to destruction of the tooth, root(s) and periodontal ligament.  Caregivers may notice dark, discolored teeth, bright red gums, reluctance to eat, drooling and sudden swelling on the face.

If your pet is diagnosed with a chronic disease, there are some things that you should discuss with your veterinarian, such as:

  • If the disease is progressive or will remain stable with treatment
  • Signs that their condition is getting worse
  • Creating a plan for how often rechecks are needed
  • Decreasing any negative side effects from the medications (such as increased appetite and thirst with steroids)
  • Increasing your pet’s quality of life
  • Creating realistic expectations for the long-term management of their condition

Common Chronic Diseases of Cats

The following is a list of common chronic diseases that occur in cats.  If caregivers notice any of the following symptoms, they should discuss it with Dr. Waxman at Veterinaire Pet Care today.

Anemia

A disease, or symptom of another disease, in which the body lacks enough red blood cells to carry
oxygen effectively.  May occur secondary to many chronic diseases, especially kidney disease, and
also secondary to flea infestation.  Symptoms include pale gums, pale nose, lethargy, and loss of appetite.

Cardiomyopathy

A disease, or symptom of another disease, in which the body lacks enough red blood cells to carry
oxygen effectively.  May occur secondary to many chronic diseases, especially kidney disease, and
also secondary to flea infestation.  Symptoms include pale gums, pale nose, lethargy, and loss of appetite.

Cardiomyopathy

A disease of the heart muscle that can take several forms – hypertrophic, dilated or restrictive.  Caregivers may notice difficulty breathing, lethargy, lack of appetite, the sudden loss of use of one or more limbs.

Chronic Renal Disease

A disease of the kidneys, in which they gradually lose the ability to properly filter waste and retain water and electrolytes.  May be exacerbated by infections or kidney stones.  Caregivers may notice excessive thirst, excessive urination, vomiting, loss of appetite, and poor grooming.

Diabetes Mellitus

A disease in which the pancreas fails to produce insulin, or the body is unable to utilize insulin that is made, resulting in high blood sugar.  Caregivers may weight loss despite an excellent appetite, excessive thirst, and excessive urination.

Hyperthyroidism

A disease caused by a nodule (goiter) on the thyroid gland that secretes excessive thyroid hormone.  Caregivers may notice weight loss, increased appetite, restlessness, yowling, increased drinking and poor grooming.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

A disease caused by inflammation of the lining of the stomach, intestines and/or colon.  Often accompanied by hepatitis and pancreatitis. Caregivers may notice unexplained weight loss, diarrhea, constipation, or vomiting.

Obesity

One of the most common diseases in cats, in which a cat is 30% over its ideal bodyweight. Obesity contributes to a variety of other diseases including diabetes, joint and ligament problems, hepatic lipidosis, and reduced life span.  Caregivers should be able to easily feel a cat’s ribs.

Osteoarthritis

A disease caused by the degeneration of the joint and cartilage surrounding the joint. Caregivers may notice flinching when the animal is touched, difficulty walking and grooming, difficulty posturing in the litter box, stiffness and reluctance to jump.

Pancreatitis

A disease of unknown cause, in which inflammation of the pancreas leads to leakage of digestive enzymes into the abdomen.  Caregivers may notice lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, nausea, jaundice (yellow color to skin or whites of the eyes) and abdominal pain.

Periodontal disease

A dental disease caused by an accumulation of tartar on the surface of teeth and under the gum line, eventually progressing to destruction of the tooth, root(s) and periodontal ligament. Caregivers may notice dark, discolored teeth, bright red gums, reluctance to eat, drooling and sudden swelling on the face.

If your pet is diagnosed with a chronic disease, there are some things that you should discuss with your veterinarian, such as:

  • If the disease is progressive or will remain stable with treatment
  • Signs that their condition is getting worse
  • Creating a plan for how often rechecks are needed
  • Decreasing any negative side effects from the medications (such as increased appetite and thirst with steroids)
  • Increasing your pet’s quality of life
  • Creating realistic expectations for the long-term management of their condition

Have any additional questions?
Contact Us today and we can help!