The real cost of chronic illness in dogs and how you can prevent it

Reviewed by our experts. More info
Cindy Feng, Dr Matthew Muir
Sporty woman holding fluffy dog in the park

There’s a serious problem we need to talk about: chronic illness in our dogs is on the rise, diminishing their quality of life and even cutting it short.  

With an average life expectancy of 84 years, increasing each year, we Australians are living longer than ever before. 

The same can’t be said for our dogs.  

The life expectancy of our dogs is only 10-13 years, and some prominent thought leaders believe this may be decreasing. 

10 years with a healthy dog is not enough. Add a chronic illness to the mix and the quality of those years is cut short. 

The cost of treating chronic illness can be expensive, especially if it’s an incurable disease that requires lifelong care. Treating a disease is a reactive response. What if we could prevent it instead?  

Sub-optimal diets are one of the leading causes of chronic illness in dogs: a factor that’s within our control, making so many of these conditions entirely preventable.  

At Lyka, we believe all dogs should live longer, healthier lives, and we know that diet and nutrition are key to improving both healthspan and lifespan.  

How is healthspan different to lifespan? 

Lifespan refers to how long a dog lives, while healthspan refers to how long a dog is healthy, happy, and active.  

A healthy dog is generally free of disease or with a well-managed illness and an exceptional quality of life. 

When your pup is ill, you take them to the vet for treatment. That’s the ‘normal’ response to illness, right? We wait until there is a problem and then we fix it.  

But this reactive response is an outdated approach to canine healthcare: prevention is always better than cure. 

So, how do we increase their healthspan and their lifespan proactively?  

The answer: a holistic approach to healthcare that looks at the whole dog, with nutrition at its core.  

The most common health issues impacted by diet 

We feel good when we eat a nutritious diet full of fresh produce — it plays a vital role when it comes to our health and wellbeing. So, why not our pup’s too? 

Let’s look at five of the most common health issues impacted by diet, the cost of treatment per year and how evidence-based nutrition could be the key to a long and healthy life for our dogs. 

  • Skin or ear infections, allergies, atopic dermatitis 

  • Diarrhoea, gastritis, gastroenteritis 

  • Osteoarthritis (arthritis) 

  • Obesity 

  • Cancer 

Skin or ear infections, allergies, atopic dermatitis 

Like us, the skin is your dog’s largest organ and their first line of defence against pathogens. The condition of their skin and coat can be an indication of health. 

The most common pet insurance claim in 2022 related to skin allergies. From itchiness to infected pustules, skin issues can be an expensive battle for dog parents, and an ongoing annoyance for your dog.  

Food allergies, intolerance or sensitivities to ingredients like wheat, chicken, and eggs, usually present as skin irritations. 

Atopic dermatitis is a genetic syndrome affecting about 10-15% of the canine population. It can remain dormant until triggered by an environmental factor, including diet, and can be affected by what the mother dog eats while nursing.  

Some breeds like Cavoodles, French Bulldogs and Maltese experience skin issues more than others.  

Cost of treating skin allergies 

Average cost of treating skin allergies: $520 per year. 

Maximum cost of treating skin allergies: $17,460 per year. 

Nutrition for preventing skin conditions  

Strengthen your dog’s skin with these nutrients: 

  • Omega essential fatty acids (EFAs): Dry, dull coats and itchy skin can be a sign of EFA deficiency. Adding omega-3 and omega-6 can improve coat and skin condition.  Puppies given fish oil supplements also have a lower risk of developing atopic dermatitis in adulthood. 

Found in: oily fish, fish oil, flaxseeds, and cold-pressed GMO-free safflower oil.  

Found in: seeds, nuts, and plant oils. 

Food allergies trigger an immune response that can present as skin and gastrointestinal health issues. Strengthening the immune system by nurturing a strong and diverse microbiome through a fresh, wholefood diet is an effective preventative measure.  

How Netja helped Missy get her glow back

When Netja rescued Missy, the young American Bully cross, she had very bad skin allergies, itchy skin and hair loss on her belly. After only two weeks on Lyka, Netja began to notice a difference:

Quote about Missy the dog after eating Lyka

Her fur mum says her coat now glistens in the sunshine and we agree! 

American bulldog X sniffing grass in the sun
Missy after eating Lyka

Diarrhoea, gastritis and gastroenteritis  

Imagine how sick you’d feel if you had chronic diarrhoea. This is the experience of many dogs that struggle with gastritis or gastroenteritis — poor pups!  

The importance of your dog’s digestive system can’t be underestimated. In addition to processing their food, it moderates their immune system and regulates their hormones.  

Food sensitivities, a microbiome imbalance, stress, sub-optimal or high-fat diets can all trigger digestive problems.  

Your vet may have to investigate the problem using invasive diagnostics including gut biopsies and endoscopes. An elimination diet is often the main way to establish the dietary root cause and allow the gut to repair itself. 

Elimination diets clickable Read More block

Many dogs with gastrointestinal issues require hospitalisation for dehydration and pain management or need long-term immunosuppressive medication with concerning side-effects to improve their quality of life.  

All this can produce significant stress for all involved and comes at a considerable expense.  

Italian Greyhounds, Yorkshire Terriers and Toy Poodles are more prone to developing digestive problems, often because of genetic sensitivities to microbiome imbalances (dysbiosis). 

Cost of treating gastritis 

Average cost of treating gastritis: $523 per year. 

Maximum cost of treating gastritis: $28,232 per year. 

Nutrition for preventing diarrhoea, gastritis and gastroenteritis 

Improve your dog’s digestive system with these proactive dietary approaches: 

  • Fresh ingredients: Wholefoods like fresh fruit and vegetables contain essential, bioavailable nutrients that are easily absorbed into the body. Rich in prebiotic dietary fibre, these ingredients support the microbiota and promote healthy and regular bowel movements.  

Look for: bok choy, green cabbage, carrots 

Look for: gently cooked diets that maintain the nutritional value of the fresh ingredients.  

  • High-quality meat: Human-grade meat simply means it’s fit for human consumption. Dogs that are fed unprocessed, meat-rich diets in their early years reduce the risk of gut health issues in later life.  

Look for: Human-grade, grass-fed/wild-caught/free-range/barn-raised meat for superior protein and digestibility.  

How fresh food settled Leeloo’s stomach 

Leeloo the spoodle suffered from inflammatory bowel disease since she was one year old. Her fur mum, Elvira, spent thousands of dollars on vet visits and medication until her friend recommended Lyka.  

Quote about Leeloo the dog after eating Lyka

Osteoarthritis (arthritis) 

1 in 5 dogs over the age of one is affected by arthritis, approximately. 

Arthritis is an incurable, degenerative disease requiring a lifetime of care with the support of a veterinarian. 

What may start as mild stiffness can progress into joint pain, lameness, and a reluctance to move — all affecting your dog’s quality of life.  

Arthritis is closely connected to chronic inflammation which can stem from pro-inflammatory omega ratios in ultra-processed diets. It’s also worsened by obesity — another growing problem in our dog population.  

Any dog can develop arthritis, but Border Collies, Labrador Retrievers and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels can be more prone to developing this chronic ailment.  

Cost of treating arthritis 

Average cost of treating arthritis: $423 per year.  

Maximum cost of treating arthritis: $12,255 per year. 

The treatment of arthritis may include weight management, vet-directed dietary changes, pain medication or surgery. Holistic healthcare alternatives like physiotherapy and acupuncture are also worth considering. 

Nutrition for supple joints  

Prevention is always better than cure. A diet that’s rich in joint-loving ingredients can inhibit the development of arthritis. 

  • Omega-3: Essential fatty acid, omega-3, can help to improve arthritic joints by protecting the cartilage and reducing inflammation.  

Found in: fish, fish oil, flaxseed oil 

Look for curcumin in meals or wholefood supplements 

  • Vitamin C: Dogs can make vitamin C in their bodies, but increasing the concentration and potency of vitamin C can promote collagen development and reduce inflammation.  

Found in: blueberries, broccoli, purple sweet potatoes 


Did you know that over 40% of dogs in Australia are either overweight or obese? It’s a startling statistic! 

As our beloved companion animals, our dogs have been affected by our increasingly sedentary lifestyles, high carb, processed diets, and generous portions. 

Many of the problems we experience with obesity are also experienced by our dogs, affecting health-span and lifespan. Excess weight significantly increases the risk of developing diseases, including: 

  • orthopaedic diseases, like osteoarthritis  

  • glucose intolerance or insulin resistance leading to diabetes 

  • gastrointestinal disorders, like pancreatitis 

  • cancer is also a potential risk 

Cost of treating obesity 

Losing weight usually involves a change in diet and lifestyle, with the support of your veterinarian.  

However, excess weight is rarely the only issue when dealing with obesity. The cost of treating health issues triggered by excessive weight can be expensive.  

Preventative healthcare for obesity  

Manage and maintain your dog’s ideal weight and body shape from a healthspan perspective: 

  • Portion-control: Eating the right number of calories and a suitable exercise routine are the foundation of your dog’s weight management, just like it is for us.  

Next steps: If your dog is overweight, seek advice from your veterinarian about dietary changes and exercise.  

  • Nutrient-dense food: The quality of food plays an important role in your dog’s body condition and health.  

Carbohydrate-rich, ultra-processed food is one of the main factors contributing to excessive weight gain in dogs (and humans) and can cause chronic inflammation too.  

Next steps: A low-carbohydrate, high-protein, high-fibre diet is one of the best ways to deal with obesity.  

  • Polyphenols: Anti-inflammatory and anti-obesity polyphenols can minimise the risk of obesity. 

Look for: Blueberries that are rich in polyphenols and vitamins.  

How fresh food gave Benji his health back 

For fur mum Madi, feeding Lyka was an investment in Benji’s health. The switch to fresh has led to an all-round improvement for this cute Cavoodle! 

Quote about Benji the dog after eating Lyka


Cancer has become a worryingly common problem for our beloved dogs. Sadly, about 1 in 4 pups will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives, rising to a rate of 1 in 2 for dogs over the age of 10. It's one of the leading causes of canine death. 

Some breeds can be genetically predisposed to developing cancers, and we know from human studies that environmental factors affect the risk of this disease too. 

Chronic inflammation increases the chance of developing cancer in dogs and humans and is thought to be triggered by highly processed food; food by-products including carcinogenic compounds such as heterocyclic amines; and environmental toxins like mycotoxins. 

Cost of treating cancer 

The cost of treating cancer varies with the type of cancer, the stage of progression, the position of the tumour and whether or not an oncologist is involved.  

The average cost of cancer management is approximately $2000. Chemotherapy can cost between $10,000 to $20,000, and upwards of $80,000 for the successful treatment of common cancers like Lymphoma, over two years or so.  

Preventative healthcare for cancer 

Minimise the risk of cancer by taking preventative steps to support your dog’s healthspan: 

  • Anti-inflammatory agents: A nutritious diet containing antioxidants and anti-inflammatory ingredients can minimise inflammation and may reduce the risk of cancer.  

Look for: ginger, fennel seeds, mushrooms 

  • Carotenoid-rich vegetables: Carotenoids are anti-carcinogenic phytonutrients found in abundance in green leafy and orange/yellow vegetables. Research on a group of Scottish terriers identified a 90% reduction in the rate of cancer (transitional cell carcinoma (TCC)) with the inclusion of carotenoids from fresh vegetables in their diets.  

Look for: broccoli, kale, spinach, carrots 

  • Omega-3 fatty acids: The anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3 have been shown to reduce the risk of cancer (T-zone Lymphoma) in Golden Retrievers.  

Look for: eggs, hemp seeds, fish, flaxseed 

Healthspan: proactive prevention of disease 

At Lyka, our mission is simple: help all dogs live their healthiest, happiest lives.  

Prioritising healthspan can reduce the burden of illness for you and your dog. Simple improvements to their diet, environment, and lifestyle can prevent disease, giving you more years with a healthy pup by your side.   

Lyka’s fresh food recipes are designed to nourish your dog from the inside out to establish a strong foundation of health and wellbeing and prevent chronic illness.  

This article was reviewed by Lyka's veterinary and nutrition experts

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