Most human and animal patients are chronic. Lifespan now is longer than ever: feeding, safety, prevention of diseases… all these things make both humans and animals live longer.
Just 10 years ago, we thought a 7 years old dog was an old dog, but nowadays, in most cases, we know it’s going to live for another 7 years. In case of cats it’s even better, because it’s more and more common for them to live 18 or 20 years.
In the other hand chronic problems, that are going to be suffered for life in a big number of cases (and are going to need a medical control for life as well), are also becoming more and more common. Some frequent chronic diseases are: hormonal ones, such as diabetes and thyroid or adrenal glands problems; some infectious or parasitic diseases such as leishmaniasis; immunitary diseases such as atopic dermatitis or dry eye; and degenerative diseases such as osteoarthritis, some heart diseases and chronic bronchitis. In most cases, all these diseases will remain for life.
Long term medical control of these chronic diseases is as important as a right diagnosis. When a Vet diagnoses, for example, an elbow osteoarthritis in a dog, the following step is establishing a treatment with anti-inflammatories, maybe an special diet too (for reducing the weight the joints are supporting), and also some moderate exercise (because in case of osteoarthritis, both violent exercise and lying down all the time are very bad for the joints). But the process has just begun, because the animal will need several checks a year for evaluating and controlling every change that may occur in its condition. In some cases the owner understands a week on anti-inflammatories is enough for getting rid of the problem. Unfortunately, this is not true. Maybe our dog won’t need the same kind of tablets or the same dosage during its life, but one thing is evident: an animal having a long term treatment with anti-inflammatories will require periodical liver and kidney controls, as well as weight controls.
Animal body is a sophisticated machine which implies several systems working coordinately. When any of these systems fail, everything may fail. A diabetic dog with its seric glucose levels under control, may appear to be OK, but their kidneys may be affected by the disease, so periodic controls (apart from blood glucose measurements), become necessary.
In some cases we find the opposite problem: a treatment that was prescribed for treating an episodic problem (a gastritis, for example), is been administrated for months because the owner understood the problem would be back when stopping the treatment.
If we have any kind of doubt about the prognosis and the duration of a treatment, we should ask the Vet, because some diseases are for life, but the treatment may vary through the different stages of the diseases: a good example everybody will understand is, when you are suffering a refractive error, that’s a problem for life, but the lenses you are going to need are not always the same.
Liliana Aldeguer Cerdán col 793
English translation by Sergio Reina Esteban col 747