There’s never an easy time to say goodbye to a beloved family pet. But for those who are losing their pets during the COVID-19 health crisis, it can be especially heartbreaking. As veterinarians, we heavily consider the quality of life and wellbeing of companion animals in our treatment plans. If our animals are in pain and suffering, sometimes euthanasia is the most compassionate option. But when do you know if that time has come? What are the end-of-life symptoms and how do you determine a pet’s quality of life?
Quality-of-Life Scale for Pets
The quality of life scale is used by veterinarians to determine whether to continue caring for an elderly or ill pet or to recommend putting them down. As you’ll see, we assess a pet’s quality-of-life based on a number of different factors that include their overall physical and mental wellbeing.
On a scale of 1-10, we measure seven main categories.
- Hurt: Is your pet’s pain being successfully managed? Are they breathing adequately or is oxygen needed?
- Hunger: Does your pet display a healthy appetite? Do they need help eating? Do they use a feeding tube?
- Hydration: Is your pet dehydrated? Are they receiving fluids to help hydrate them and how are they responding?
- Hygiene: How does your pet’s coat look? Do they have pressure sores? Do brushing and grooming improve their quality of life?
- Happiness: Does your pet still express joy and interest in the things they once loved? Do they look depressed, lonely, anxious or afraid?
- Mobility: Can your pet get up and walk without assistance? Are they limping or sedentary? Do they still enjoy walks or has it become too difficult?
- More Good Days than Bad: You know your pet better than anyone else. Based on the following criteria, are their bad days beginning to outnumber the good? If so, their suffering has greatly increased.
Making the Decision to Euthanize
Deciding when to let a pet go is one of the most difficult decisions we make in life. And it’s a very personal decision to be made between your family and your vet. If you are currently in the midst of this process, here is an excellent quality-of-life assessment tool from Ohio State University. As a compassionate pet clinic, at East Valley Animal Hospital we are here to support our pet families in any way possible during end-of-life decisions.