When is it time to make the decision?
This is a difficult and irrevocable decision. Asking yourself this question and taking time to think long and hard about it is a positive action. Whatever your decision, you will want to know you considered all options and ultimately made the best choice for your pet and your family, and if given the same situation, you would make the same decision again.
How should I evaluate my pet’s quality of life?
There are several criteria used in evaluating life quality that should be carefully considered.
- Is your pet eating? Appetite is an indicator of well-being in most animal species. While not the only consideration, good quality of life includes eating; a lack of interest in or refusal of food is an indicator not feeling well. An animal that has hunger and will eat has vitality.
- Is your pet comfortable? The pet should be free of debilitating pains, cramps, aches or even the psychological pain that comes from the development of incontinence in an animal who has been housebroken for an entire life.
- Does the pet still enjoy favorite activities? The elderly pet is not expected to be as active as he or she once was. But, he should still know joy in the company of family, in sleeping comfortably, in being in his favorite spots with his favorite things. You know your pet better than any one and only you can truly answer these questions.
Dr. Alice Villalobos, the veterinarian who started Pawspice, a quality of life program for terminal pets, has published a scoring system for life quality called The HHHHHMM scale. The letters stand for: Hurt, Hunger, Hydration, Hygiene, Happiness, Mobility, and More Good Days than Bad.
|Quality of Life Scale: The HHHHHMM Scale|
Pet caregivers can use this scale to determine Quality of Life. Score patients using a scale of 1 to 10.
|1-10||HURT – Adequate pain control, including breathing ability, is first and foremost on the scale. Is the pet’s pain successfully managed? Is oxygen necessary?|
|1-10||HUNGER – Is the pet eating enough? Does hand feeding help? Does the patient require a feeding tube?|
|1-10||HYDRATION – Is the patient dehydrated? For patients not drinking enough, use subcutaneous fluids once or twice daily to supplement fluid intake.|
|1-10||HYGIENE – The patient should be brushed and cleaned, particularly after elimination. Avoid pressure scores and keep all wounds clean.|
|1-10||HAPPINESS – Does the pet express joy and interest? Is the pet responsive to things around him or her (family, toys, etc.)? Is the pet depressed, lonely, anxious, bored or afraid? Can the pet’s bed be close to the family activities and not be isolated?|
|1-10||MOBILITY – Can the patient get up without assistance? Does the pet need human or mechanical help (e.g., a cart)? Does the pet feel like going for a walk? Is the pet having seizures or stumbling? (Some caregivers feel euthanasia is preferable to amputation, yet an animal who has limited mobility but is still alert and responsive can have a good quality of life as long as caregivers are committed to helping the pet.)|
|1-10||MORE GOOD DAYS THAN BAD – When bad days outnumber good days, quality of life might be compromised. When a healthy human-animal bond is no longer possible, the caregiver must be made aware the end is near. The decision needs to be made if the pet is suffering. If death comes peacefully and painlessly, that is okay.|
|*TOTAL||*A total over 35 points represents acceptable life quality|
Adapted by Villalobos, A.E., Quality of Life Scale Helps Make Final Call, VPN, 09/2004, for Canine and Feline Geriatric Oncology Honoring the Human-Animal Bond, by Blackwell Publishing, Table 10.1, released 2006.
If you are considering pet euthanasia, discuss the pet’s condition with your veterinarian prior to making a decision or even coming in for an appointment. Every veterinarian has a story or two about the pet that was brought in for euthanasia but turned out to have a relatively simple problem and ultimately achieved a complete recovery.
The mental process of making the euthanasia decision is heart breaking and you do not want to have to undergo this process twice but, on the other hand, you do not want to euthanize a pet with a treatable disease. Many times people come in for their euthanasia appointment having already made their decision when, in fact, their pet has a reversible problem.
Do not assume your pet’s condition is untreatable.
Call your veterinarian first and discuss the situation
before you are too far into this emotional process to turn back.
Use the medical resources available to you
to get all the facts and options before making this decision.