The human-animal bond is very precious for many people. Our pets become part of our family and we care for them as such, especially if they are unwell or in need of care.
The most heartbreaking part of owning a pet is that their lives are so much shorter than our own, and almost every pet owner will eventually face a decline in their pet’s quality of life and eventual end of life care.
When a pet becomes ill and has poor quality of life, with little hope of getting better, pet parents are often faced with the reality that their beloved pet may need to be euthanized, or put to sleep.
This can be an incredibly difficult question for both the owner and the veterinarian, and is often a very tough decision to make. Sometimes, euthanasia is obviously the best thing to do for your pet. At other times, however, it can be less clear. An open discussion with your veterinarian, including an honest evaluation of your pet’s quality of life, should help you make the decision.
One way to determine if your aging pet is still enjoying life and can remain with us a little longer is by using a “Quality of Life” scale to determine if the animal’s basic needs are being met. This scale can be helpful for the veterinarian and pet owner when deciding what is best for your pet.
In this scale, pets are scored on a scale of 1 through 10 in each category, with 10 being the highest score for quality of life. Again, only an honest evaluation of each category will help with the decision. Because the scoring is subjective, this score should be a part, but not the sole driver, of your decision based on your pet’s individual situation.
Quality of Life (HHHHHMM Scale)
|0-10||HURT Adequate pain control (including breathing ability)|
|0-10||HUNGER Is the pet eating enough? Does the pet require hand-feeding or a feeding tube?|
|0-10||HYDRATION Is the pet dehydrated? Does it need subcutaneous fluids?|
|0-10||HYGIENE Pet needs to be brushed and clean, especially after elimination|
|0-10||HAPPINESS Does the pet express joy/interest? Does it respond to its environment? Does the pet show signs of boredom/loneliness/anxiety/fear?|
|0-10||MOBILITY Can the pet get up without assistance does the pet want to go for a walk? Is the pet experiencing seizures/stumbling?|
|0-10||MORE GOOD THAN BAD When bad days start to outnumber good days, the quality of life becomes compromised and euthanasia needs to be considered|
|Total||A total of 35 points is considered acceptable for a quality of life score.|
The AVMA offers several additional resources for pet owners, including brochures that are available online and can be downloaded and printed at no charge.
Euthanasia is an option to end a pet’s suffering when there is nothing more that can be done for the pet. Euthanasia, when there are no other options, is considered an act of compassion, mercy, and love.
There are several options available when the that time comes. The first thing to remember is you are not alone; your vet will help guide you through the process and help you decide when the time is right. If your pet is comfortable going to the vet, then you may choose to have your vet handle their euthanization.
If your pet is like many pets, and a trip to the vet only increases their anxiety and distress, then another option is in-home euthanization. There are several organizations that perform these services throughout the country, including, Lap of Love. Lap of Love provides in home euthanasia services in most US states.
Before you say goodbye to your furry friend, make his last days as special as possible. Take pictures with your pet, bring them to their favorite outdoor spot, take a walk together, find a comfortable spot in the house where they can relax as much as possible and stay as calm as possible.
Find a special way to honor your pet’s memory. Put together a memory box filled with his favorite toys, his collar, and other items. Plant perennials or a tree in your garden in memory of your pet. There are many ways to honor your pet’s memory and grieving the loss of your pet is a normal part of the coping process.
Your vet may be able to connect you with a support group, helpline or other services to help you cope with the loss of your pet. Your pet is a part of your family and his passing is not something that will be taken lightly. If at any time during this phase of his life you are unsure about what to do, your vet is your best resource. Your vet will give you honest, professional feedback on what he or she would recommend for your pet. Ultimately, the decision is yours but know that being there for your pet until the very end is the greatest gift you can give any pet.
Our pets rely on us to care for them and do what is best for them. Whatever decisions you make at this stage of your pet’s life, know that you are doing it with love, compassion, and caring for your pet.