The Decision

Child with Elderly Pet - Pets Remembered - In Home EuthanasiaAs an emergency vet, I am often asked “When is the right time to euthanize my pet? How will I know?” It is important to know that there is no “right” or “acceptable” answer.

With an ailing animal, the most common approach is to determine your pet’s “Quality of Life.” The goal in setting up the Quality of Life Scale is to provide a guideline so that pet owners can maintain a rewarding relationship that nurtures the human-animal bond. The scale alleviates owners’ feelings of guilt and engenders the support of the veterinary team to actively help in the care and decision making.

Some customers prefer an in-home diagnosis and evaluation with a veterinarian, and that’s perfectly okay.     To schedule an appointment, please call 1-855-PET-PEACE or click here begin online.

If you would like to conduct the evaluation yourself, this is the scale I use when working with patients.

To scale, use 1(poor) to 10 (best).

PAIN: 1-10

Adequate pain control is first and foremost on the scale. This includes the pet’s ability to breath properly. Most people do not realize that not being able to breathe is ranked at the top of the pain scale.

EATING: 1-10

Is your pet eating enough? Does hand feeding help? Does the patient require a feeding tube? Malnutrition develops quickly in sick animals when the caretaker is not informed.

DRINKING: 1-10

Is your pet dehydrated? For animals not drinking enough, use subcutaneous fluids once or twice daily to supplement fluid intake.

CLEANLINESS: 1-10

Can your pet be kept brushed and cleaned? Is the coat matted? Is the pet situated properly so that it won’t have to lie in its own waste after eliminations? Pets, especially  with oral ailments, can’t keep themselves clean, so they get demoralized quickly.

HAPPINESS: 1-10

Does the animal express joy and interest? Is the pet responsive to things around him or her (family, toys, etc.)? Is the pet depressed, lonely, anxious, bored or afraid? Can the pet’s bed be close to the family activities and not be isolated?

MOBILITY: 1-10

Can they get up without assistance? Do they need human or mechanical help (e.g. a cart)? Does the pet feel like going for a walk?  Is the pet having seizures or stumbling?

Some caregivers feel euthanasia is preferable to amputation, yet an animal who has limited mobility but is still alert and responsive can have a good quality of life as long as caregivers are committed to helping the pet.

MORE GOOD DAYS THAN BAD: 1-10

When there are too many bad days in a row or if your pet seems to be “turned off” to life, quality of life is compromised. Bad days are filled with undesirable experiences such as vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, frustration, seizures, etc. Bad days could be from profound weakness caused by anemia or from the discomfort caused by and obstruction or a large, inoperable tumor in the abdomen.

Results:

A score of 0-35 is often considered in the “unacceptable” range

A score of 35-70 is often considered in the “acceptable or manageable” range.

Again, this scale is to serve as a decision making tool and is not absolute.   Make sure to discuss any options with us or your veterinarian before making any final decision.

In Conclusion:

It is very difficult for families to make the final decision to tend a beloved pet’s life with euthanasia. A decision to euthanize can be made clearer to clients if the standard scale for quality of life is set ahead of time and re-evaluated every couple of weeks or every few days as required.

If the pet is slowly passing on with a peaceful tranquility, it may be a satisfactory situation. People often want their pet to pass on naturally at home in their arms or in their own beds. That is okay as long as the pet is just weakening steadily and not suffering to death. However, if the pet is suffering,  home euthanasia with a kindly veterinarian is often the best choice.

Hopefully, the concept of a scale for quality of life and our professional guidance can help relieve the angst and regret about a beloved pet’s death.