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How to assess your pet's quality of life

Pets, like people, have good days and bad days.  Tracking (on paper or a calendar) each good day and each bad day may help you see how your pet’s condition is progressing over time.   When the bad days outnumber the good days, or when your pet’s list of problems is long, your pet’s quality of life may be diminished.  At home euthanasia, in a place where they are most comfortable and with the people they love, is a gift to give our cherished pet to relieve terrible pain and suffering. 

When we talk about assessing your pet’s quality of life, we simply mean we are trying to determine how good or bad your pet’s life is at this moment. 

There are a few ways you can pick up clues to assess your pet’s quality of life:

  1. Medical Health and Disease Progression:  We will guide you with all the facts you need to recognize symptoms, anticipate progression of disease, develop realistic expectations, and be the medical expert when it comes to your pet.  We will guide you in making the best decisions for you and your pet.
  2. What Does Your Pet Love To Do?  Write down the top five things that your pet loves to do. Is your pet able to do these things?  Maybe only some of them?  Or only a percentage of each one?  When your pet is no longer able to do most of the things that he or she loves to do, this may be a sign that your pet is no longer experiencing quality of life.  
  3. Pain.  Is your pet experiencing pain?  Can your pet’s pain be managed through the judicious use of painkillers?  Remember, animals are designed to accept and hide their pain. They often don’t show obvious signs of pain like crying/yelping/whining/vocalizing even though they are feeling pain.  We will help you recognize the signs of pain in your pet so that you can evaluate your pet’s pain levels.
  4. Eating and Drinking.  Is your pet eating or has he or she stopped eating?  Is your pet drinking water on a regular basis?
  5. Breathing.  Is your pet breathing normally, or is your pet having breathing issues?  Is your pet experiencing abdominal effort to breath (not a good sign)?
  6. Nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea.  Consistent nausea,vomiting or diarrhea can be signs that your pet’s quality of life has slipped.  If your pet is experiencing consistent vomiting, please call us.
  7. Sleeping.  Is your pet sleeping well for long periods?  Are they having trouble sleeping, finding a comfortable way to lay?  Can they lay on their side for long periods?
  8. Urinating/Defecating in the Appropriate Place.  Is your pet able to use the appropriate place (litter box, outdoors, etc.) to relieve themselves?  Is he or she able to get outside often?  Able to comfortably get into position to urinate or defecate?  Are they falling when getting outside? Falling or shaking when getting into position to urinate or defecate? Eliminating in the house because it’s too painful to go outside? Laying in urine or feces? Leaking urine often?  Again, changes in their ability to urinate or defecate normally can be signs their quality of life is diminishing.
  9. Emotional Health. Does your pet seem happy or depressed? Does he or she express joy and interest? Are they responsive to family, toys, or other pets? 
  10. Mobility.  Can your pet walk normally?  Is he or she having trouble walking or getting up?  Can he or she get up without assistance? Does he or she feel like going for a walk? Is he or she stumbling or shaking? Do pain meds help (early arthritis) or make no difference (advanced arthritis)? 
  11. Weakness.  Is your pet weak?  Have healthy muscle mass or is it gone?  Lost a lot of weight?  Experiencing bouts of weakness that come and go?

In addition to considering the above tips, it may help you to ask yourself these important questions. Sometimes, articulating or writing down your thoughts can make the right path more apparent. Some questions that may help you with this decision include:

  • Why do you think it might be time to euthanize?
  • What are my fears and concerns about euthanizing?
  • Whose interests, besides those of my pet, are you taking into account?
  • What are the concerns of the people around me?
  • Are you making this decision because it is best for your pet, or not making it because you are not ready to let go?

Most of all, watch the good and bad days. 


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