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Managing a dog with a chronic illness

- Posted by in Pet Care
Managing a dog with a chronic illness

No matter how hard we try to protect our beloved pets, sometimes they get ill and their condition doesn’t improve. The only solution is long-term medication that promises to set us back a small fortune each month and brings with it a whole host of questions and concerns.

Below is a breakdown of the things to consider when your dog receives a diagnosis of a chronic illness. It is worth asking your vet about the costs involved, potential side effects, quality of life, and how you will need to adjust your life to meet your dog’s needs.


The cost implications associated with having a dog on long-term medication can be huge, especially if your dog isn’t insured. This can cause a lot of financial worry, which, when added to the emotional stress of your dog’s diagnosis, can really take its toll.

It used to be the case that you could only buy animal medication from your vet, but since a law change in 2005, vets are now legally obliged to write you out a prescription so you can buy your drugs elsewhere. Although they are allowed to charge for this (usually £10-15), ultimately, it allows you to shop around for the best deal.

If requested to, your vet can also add ‘repeats’ to the prescription so you can buy the medication more than once. This, along with the time and money it saves, is why many pet owners are now choosing to buy online. The medication is exactly the same as you would buy from your vet, but often a fraction of the price.

Side effects:

One of the biggest considerations when embarking on long-term medication is the side effects that come with the drugs your dog has been prescribed. It is very important that you discuss these with your vet and decide on the best course of action.

Sometimes the side effects will present so severely in your dog that they will outweigh the potential benefits of the drug, meaning you need to discontinue use. Other times, the side effects will be easily managed. It may be that your vet recommends a supplement to feed alongside the medicine.

If you are worried about side effects, talk to your vet. It may be that there is a preferable alternative that is worth exploring e.g. dietary changes, hydrotherapy etc. Your vet will be able to guide you through this decision and offer up the pros and cons of every option.

Quality of life:

Sometimes a dog can be maintained on medication long-term, although this doesn’t always guarantee its quality of life. If the medication is going to help your dog lead a normal, happy life, then it is definitely worth pursuing.

Life adjustments:

The extent to which you need to adapt your life around your dog’s chronic illness will depend on the illness itself and the type of medication he is on.

A dog with a chronic skin condition, for example, may need medication and a change of diet to achieve healthier skin. Dogs with diabetes, as well as requiring their daily injections of insulin, will also benefit from a dietary change and increased exercise (if they’re not already exercising moderately and consistently) to avoid peaks and troughs in their glucose levels.

Whatever the condition you are faced with, most of them will require a degree of lifestyle adjustment to manage correctly, whether it’s budgeting for medication costs, allowing time for more exercise, or even researching different ways to help your dog cope.

But it is all totally worth it – after all, you can’t put a price on your dog’s health and happiness.

Please comment below if you have any advice for our other readers or personal experiences you would like to share.

Written by: Hannah Dyball


15th May 2017

I have a bichon with Cushings Disease, but I have found that putting him on a mixed raw food and good quality processed food, such as Natures Menu, helps control his digestive processes and he no longer has the typical Cushings bloated abdomen. This together with Vetoryl has helped him live a near normal life and his lifespan is now the same as that for a dog without Cushings.

15th May 2017

One of my dog's, a yorkie, has renal failure, stage 4, my vet has agreed to let me hydrate him subcutaneously at home. I purchase the fluid, needle for infusion etc on line at half the cost. My sam has been given a new lease of life, now eating regularly and enjoying his life again so hopefully he will see his next birtday, aged 15 on 10 June and beyond.... fingers crossed.

7th Aug 2017
Customer Since: April 2017
From: South Lanarkshire, United Kingdom

My dog Isla has Lymphoma stage 4 and is receiving chemo from the Small Animal hospital. She has 6 sessions to go and I would like to feed her the best way I can

10th Aug 2017
Customer Since: April 2017
From: Kent, United Kingdom

My American Akita pull her ligament in her back leg , we rested her , gave her pain meds,and started her on Chondroitin tablets and she's basically back to normal...(we have seen vets )

30th Nov 2017

i have an old girl ll with arthritas

24th Jan 2018

My working cocker had glaucoma and had both eyes removed in less than 3 months I have taken the time to retrain her with bells, she is happy and has adjusted well. My advise to anyone, do not give up changes and illnesses are difficult to manage but I can assure you from experience, your pet will benefit from your commitment and they adjust well.

7th May 2018

ALL animals deserve a second chance. If they have or get anything life threatening or something goes wrong with their legs, DO NOT automatically get them put to sleep, cos you wouldnt d it with a huma..... just give them plenty love and affection, dnt change anything and treat them the same as you did before it happened. They are still the same animal so just go with the flow...... YOU and the animal will tell you when they are ready to go and get their wings. Just be there for them and support them all the way. Listen to your gut instinct, and take notice of your animal........

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