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.