An animal is chronically ill when it has an illness that persists for months or years. The onset of the disease may be acute and intense; however, chronic diseases have an insidious start with symptoms that do not resolve but persist at a low degree of intensity. On the other hand, an acute disease appears suddenly with very intense symptoms that may either cause death or yield a full recovery within a few days.
A chronically ill animal may have started with a disease affecting one organ. However, because all organs are interconnected eventually several organs become ill. The original disease will morph into a variety of problems sprouting from the various affected organs. The problems occasionally flare up in acute episodes that need to be treated aggressively with heavy doses of drugs. Some chronically ill animals require the constant administration of drugs to control symptoms. Ultimately death occurs because of increasing organ degeneration from the original illness, or from side effects caused by the drugs used.
Chronic diseases cannot be cured. However, a chronically ill animal may attain a long and happy life with the appropriate medical management. A holistic approach must be taken in order to address all of the facets of the health of an animal without worsening the disease. Because all organs are interconnected and the failure of one organ affects the others, it is also true that the healthy organs can support a diseased one. The objective is to maintain a balance by carefully supporting the diseased organ(s). A holistic treatment for chronic diseases may include standard (conventional drugs) as well as complementary therapies (homeopathy, acupuncture).
Examples of diseases that tend to become chronic are: asthma, cancer, allergies, arthritis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, urinary tract infections, and epilepsy.