Quality of Life
When we decide to have a pet we take on a complex responsibility and covenant to protect and be there for them— in every way. The time may come when he or she grows sick or painful, and it is our duty to do what is best for them, despite the heartbreak and sorrow it may bring to us personally. Euthanasia is our last and most profound act of love and stewardship. In making that difficult decision we must step beyond our own feelings and do what is best for our beloved companions. And making the decision almost always comes down to quality of life.
Nobody wants to live forever. When we can also somehow put that into perspective for our dear animal companions, it makes a lot of new sense. They have their own strong sense of dignity, too. Unfortunately, that is too often overlooked.
One of the most common concerns we hear is that people worry if they have allowed the pet to suffer. Please know that there is no right or wrong answer, and our pets know that each decision we make is made only out of deep love for them and because we don't want them to suffer.
We hope this scale will be helpful in providing and objective assessment of your pet's quality of life, when often we can be too emotionally involved and subjective to make a clear decision.
Quality of Life Scale
Pet caregivers can use this scale to determine the success of providing hospice care.
Score patients using a scale of: 0 to 10 (10 being ideal) for each category, and total up the points at the end.
Adequate pain control & breathing ability is of top concern. Trouble breathing outweighs all concerns. Is the pet’s pain well managed? Can the pet breathe properly? Is oxygen supplementation necessary?
Is the pet eating enough? Does hand feeding help? Does the pet need a feeding tube?
Is the pet dehydrated? For patients not drinking enough water, use subcutaneous fluids daily or twice daily to supplement fluid intake.
The pet should be brushed and cleaned, particularly after eliminations. Avoid pressure sores with soft bedding and keep all wounds clean.
Does the pet express joy and interest? Is the pet responsive to family, toys, etc.? Is the pet depressed, lonely, anxious, bored or afraid? Can the pet’s bed be moved to be close to family activities?
Can the pet 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?
Good Vs Bad Days
When bad days outnumber good days, quality of life might be too compromised. When a healthy human-animal bond is no longer possible, the caregiver must be made aware that the end is near. The decision for euthanasia needs to be made if the pet is suffering. If death comes peacefully and painlessly at home, that is okay.
A total over 35 points represents acceptable life quality to continue with pet hospice.