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January 10, 2010 at 2:38 PMComments: 0 Faves: 0

Chronic Diseases and Your Pet's Immune System

By Smarty More Blogs by This Author

Much like the health of your immune system is necessary for you to live a long and happy life, your pet's immune system is important for the life long happiness and health of your pet. Your dog or cat's immune system is very similar to your own, composed of a complex collection of cells and proteins which protect it from invading pathogens and cancerous cells. Some chronic diseases can weaken your pet's immune system, leaving them vulnerable to infections they could normally fight off. The following common chronic diseases in pets are just a few examples of how your pet's immune system can become compromised.

Arthritis

Most pet arthritis is the result of genetics, age, weight, or a combination of the three. Arthritis is inflammation of the joints and occurs when cartilage in the joints has become worn, allowing bones to scrape together, resulting in pain and discomfort. The hip and knee joints are most likely to be affected in cats and dogs. The immune system becomes involved in this chronic condition as the result of damaged cells. In addition to fighting off viruses and bacteria, the immune system is also responsible for cleaning up dead or damaged cells. In order to do this, the immune system enacts a process called inflammation, causing fluid containing cells and proteins to rush to the site of damage. In addition to contributing to your pet's arthritis pain, chronic inflammation can also take away from the immune system's normal function. Resources (generally in the form of nutrition) that were once put towards fighting off disease are now used for cleaning up the damage from ailing joints.

Diabetes

Another potentially chronic disease which can affect your pet's immune system is diabetes. While also having a genetic basis, poor diet with lots of unhealthy treats (e.g. people food) and lack of exercise can contribute to pet diabetes as well. Pet diabetes can be kept under control by carefully monitoring and regulating a pet's blood sugar level. But when blood sugar levels aren't regulated, dangerously high blood sugar levels result. Chronically high blood sugar damages the lining of blood vessels throughout the body, especially in places like the kidneys, extremities, and eyes. In the same way as arthritis, the immune system attempts to fix these damaged areas, causing resources to be shunted away from combating the disease. Pets with poorly managed diabetes become vulnerable not only to the damage of high blood sugar levels but also to infection.

Other Chronic Pet Disorders

Ailments like irritable bowel syndrome, chronic renal failure, or heart disease are other common chronic diseases which can occur in both dogs and cats. While the organs affected may be different, the mechanisms are not: inflammation is present in all, again causing the redistribution of resources and making pets more vulnerable to infection.

Keeping Your Pet's Immune System Healthy

To help your pet's immune system, you must first give it a hand by getting proper treatment for the chronic disease that ails your pet. This can prevent the immune system from being spread too thin, allowing more effort to be put towards battling infection. Secondly, sufficient diet is absolutely essential to maintaining a proper immune system, especially as the animal ages and become less capable of efficiently absorbing nutrients. With these two steps, you can give your companion the best chance for living a long and healthy life.

Sources:

http://orthopedics.about.com/od/hipkneearthritis/f/arthritis.htm

http://www.bddiabetes.com/us/main.aspx?cat=1&id=384

http://cats.about.com/od/diseasesandconditions/tp/ChronicCatDisease.htm

Photo Credit: PWK4

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