Eventually, many loving pet parents will be faced with determining whether or not it is time to let their beloved animal go. It’s never an easy decision to make.
For most pet parents, what vets call “Quality of Life” is a hugely important factor in determining whether or not humane euthanasia should be considered. Unfortunately, there’s no single blood or urine diagnostic test that can assess your pet’s quality of life. That’s something you and your veterinarian have to do together.
Declining Quality of Life
Some pets in the last stages of their life will experience a rapid decline in quality of life. This, particularly when coupled with a terminal diagnosis of some kind, can make the decision-making process a little clearer for some pet parents. In other situations, a pet’s quality of life might decline slowly over time and changes might be subtle in nature.
How do you know what your pet’s quality of life really is? Making that determination is very personal; there’s no one-size-fits-all quality of life scale. That being said, there are a number of specific questions regarding your pet you should consider if you’ve been wondering about their quality of life.
A Quality of Life Scale for Pets
Using individual factors, it’s possible to get some scope of your pet’s overall wellness. Our veterinarians suggest the following questions for consideration but remember, most answers will be subjective.
For every question, give your pet 1 point if the answer is “That definitely describes my pet.” Give them 3 points if the answer is “That sort-of describes my pet” and give them 5 points if the answer is “That doesn’t describe my pet.” We’ll talk about what your final number means after the scale.
1 point = “That definitely describes my pet.”
3 points = “That sort-of describes my pet.”
5 points = “That doesn’t describe my pet.”
Your pet…does not want to play
Your pet…doesn’t respond to your presence in the room, or responds less than they did before
Your pet…hides often
Your pet…has different behavior than before, such as more aggression or confusion
Your pet…does not like to play anymore
Your pet…does not seem to be enjoying life
Your pet…often shakes or trembles
Your pet…pants or has trouble catching her breath
Your pet…sleeps much more than she used to
Your pet…seems unhappy or depressed
Your pet…seems disengaged
Your pet…is experiencing obvious pain
Your pet…is not eating well, or at all
Your pet…is not drinking well, or at all
Your pet…has trouble using the bathroom
Your pet…keeps losing weight
Your pet…is not as active as they once were
Your pet…is no longer grooming themselves
Your pet..needs help moving around in ways they could previously do themselves
Your pet…has a coat that looks dull, matted, or unclean
Your pet…has more “bad” days than “good” days
Now, tally up your pet’s score. The higher the number, the better their quality of life probably is. The lower her number, the more you should consider talking to your veterinarian about your options for end-of-life care for your pet.
In general, a “low” score on this scale is anywhere from 21-42 points while a “high” score could be considered anywhere from 75-105. There is no one perfect number. And remember that in some cases, a low score on one particular quality of life factor (such as refusal to drink) could be indicative of other quality of life factors declining in the near future.
If you’re concerned about your pet, talk to your vet. They’ll lean on you for some of the more subjective assessments of her overall quality of life, but many medical conditions that impact quality of life are treatable. At the very least, your veterinarian has seen hundreds if not thousands of pets through the last phases of their lives and can offer some much-needed perspective during this confusing and emotional time.