“How will we know when it’s time?”
It is one of the questions we most often hear as we talk with our clients. You may have recently received news of a difficult diagnosis for your pet, maybe cancer or kidney failure, for example. Maybe it’s not that serious but you’ve noticed that your pet’s energy level and appetite aren’t quite what they used to be. Perhaps there are more frequent “bad days” interspersed with the good. You are thinking that euthanasia may be necessary sometime in the near or not so near future and you may not feel sure how to go about making that decision. The answers are not always straightforward and are almost never easy but they can often be found when you consider your pet’s quality of life.
I recently came across a really good discussion of quality of life on a Q&A session with a veterinarian Dr. Kristi Erwin. She writes: “The decisions surrounding quality of life can be very tricky. As a pet parent, you should trust yourself that you know your pet better than anybody else on this planet. However, sometimes it is hard to maintain objectivity when we are in the midst of dealing with a failing pet. I would encourage your family to make daily or weekly (whichever seems appropriate) assessments of how your pet is doing. I would pick five things that your pet likes to do and that you feel give a good quality of life. When you are making your assessments, keep these things in mind as well as some basic things such as: Is she eating and drinking well? Can she go outside to potty or is she soiling in the house? Does she show interest in the family and what is going on or does she separate and isolate herself from you? Based on looking at these things, you can then give a score (e.g. 1-10 with one being poor quality of life and 10 being fantastic or by using a smiley face/straight face/sad face). Keep track of the scores. If they begin to slip down below 6 or so or if your pet is mostly having straight faces and sad faces, it might be time to think about making a decision.”
If you are an analytical sort of person and find the idea of an objective measurement appealing, you may find this QOL assessment useful. It comes from a reputable veterinarian Dr. Alice Villalobos.