5 Dog Health Conditions That Require Lifelong Treatment

Wouldn’t life be grand if every medical problem we had was solved in a single visit to the doctor? Sadly that isn’t the case, neither in pets nor in people. While some medical conditions resolve and never come back, pets are prone to a variety of chronic diseases that must be managed rather than cured over the lifetime of the pet. Here are 5 of the most common chronic conditions in veterinary practice


1. Diabetes

Diabetes is found in dogs and can quickly become life-threatening if not managed properly. Diabetes occurs when the body either fails to produce insulin or stops responding to insulin the bloodstream. Insulin helps the body move energy in the form of glucose from the blood into cells; in diabetics, that glucose remains in the bloodstream and starves the body of energy.

The most common symptoms noticed by owners include weight loss (despite an increased appetite) and a large increase in both water intake and urination. In later stages, pets may exhibit vomiting and loss of appetite. Diabetes is easily diagnosed by a blood and urine test. Once diagnosed, most pets require daily insulin injections for the rest of his or her life, though infrequently pets can enter remission. In addition to insulin, diabetics require careful management of their diet and benefit from reaching and maintaining a healthy weight

2. Kidney Failure

No one is entirely sure why pets develop kidney disease; while infections and toxicities can cause an overwhelming acute kidney failure, many cases occur gradually over time for no apparent reason at all. The earliest sign of kidney disease most owners notice is an increase in drinking and urination; this happens because the kidneys are unable to properly concentrate urine and the body is fighting a constant state of dehydration. As kidney disease progresses, owners may notice a decreased appetite, unkempt coat, vomiting and weight loss.

While kidney disease cannot be reversed, medical management can slow down the rate of progression. Your veterinarian may recommend a lower-protein diet as well as fluids to administer at home. Some pets benefit from medications to help counteract the symptoms of disease. With proper management, many kidney patients live well into old age

3. Heart Disease

In dogs, the most common form is congestive heart failure. This may be caused by a leaky heart valve or diseases of the heart muscle itself. The most common symptoms noted by owners are coughing and difficulty breathing due to fluid accumulation in the lungs, fatigue and swelling in the abdomen or limbs.

Heart disease in dogs is diagnosed with imaging such as x-rays and ultrasound. The changes to the heart are permanent and treatment comes in the form of life-long medications to reduce strain on the heart, improve the heart’s ability to pump, and to control the pet’s blood pressure. Many pets also benefit from sodium-restricted diets.

4. Asthma

When a pet suffers from asthma, environmental triggers cause a constriction of the bronchi leading from the trachea to the lungs, causing an abrupt and severe breathing difficulty. In dogs, small breeds are more likely to suffer the symptoms. During an asthma attack, pets exhibit shallow and rapid breathing as they attempt to force air through the narrowed airways. Owners may notice wheezing. Breathing difficulty in any pet should be treated as an emergency.

As in people, pets with asthma are treated with a combination of steroids and bronchodilators. Because asthma attacks can be triggered by the environment, pets with asthma should not be in households with smokers, and owners need to be aware of the potential for problems with dusty or highly scented cat litters. Although asthma never goes away, it can be successfully managed.

5. Atopy

Environmental allergy, or atopy, is the most common form of allergies seen in both dogs and cats. In dogs, atopy usually manifests in the skin: itchy face, licking paws, recurrent hotspots and constant chewing at the body. Because the symptoms of atopy mimic the signs of other allergies and parasites, it’s essential to work with your veterinarian to establish a diagnosis.

Atopic pets can be managed with a variety of treatments such as immunosuppressants and allergy shots. Some pets cycle in severity depending on the season, while others are affected year-round. While allergic disease can be very uncomfortable, it is rarely life-threatening.

Author Profile

Faith Courtney is a dog lover who can’t get enough of K9 love. She’s had dogs around her home since she was 8 years old. Many years on, she still keeps dogs around her home. Her family likes nothing more than to take the dogs out to the a dog park where they all can stretch their legs.




Just like people. our dogs can experience long term chronic diseases as they age.  This article discusses 5 different long term diseases and their suggested treatments.

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