When your pet is nearing the end of their life, whether from natural aging changes or a disease process, you may wonder how you will determine when the time is right to let them pass. However, evaluating your pet’s quality of life can help you make this difficult decision. Use a quality of life scale to help guide you in assessing your pet’s health, comfort, and happiness, and ask our Greenfield Veterinary Clinic team for help along the way.
What does quality of life mean for pets?
A good quality of life means something different for every owner and pet. Some pets are particularly stoic and can handle a great deal of discomfort before indicating they are ready to pass on, whereas others will show their discontent earlier in a disease process. When determining your pet’s quality of life, you can assess multiple factors, but you also need to evaluate your own happiness and quality of life while caring for a high-needs pet that may require a great deal of advanced nursing care.
Why is knowing how to assess your senior pet’s quality of life important?
Determining if your senior pet is still experiencing a good quality of life can be difficult, especially if they are skilled at hiding pain, nausea, and general unwellness signs. However, knowing how to assess your pet’s quality of life is essential for preventing prolonged and unnecessary suffering. While our team can assist in evaluating your pet’s quality of life at a moment in time through a physical examination and diagnostic testing, you are in the best position to judge your pet’s comfort and overall happiness each day.
What should be your focus when assessing your senior pet’s quality of life?
Knowing what aspects of your pet’s health should be your focus when assessing your pet’s quality of life is important. To achieve a true evaluation, quality of life scales commonly focus on the following:
- Hunger — A pet’s ability and desire to eat are good health indicators. If you cannot coerce your pet to eat through a diet change or hand-feeding, you may need to syringe- or tube-feed them, which can damage your relationship.
- Hydration — Can your pet remain adequately hydrated? Can you administer subcutaneous fluids at home, and does your pet tolerate that?
- Hurt — While pain medications and alternative therapies can keep your pet remarkably comfortable for an extended period of time, they are not cure-alls. If treatments are no longer effectively keeping your pet comfortable, suffering will result.
- Hygiene — Vomiting, diarrhea, and incontinence can be caused by numerous disease processes, and you may struggle to keep your pet clean and comfortable, especially if they are not mobile enough to eliminate on their own.
- Happiness — Does your pet still enjoy their favorite activities? Do they want to be part of the family? Do they appear depressed, uninterested, or anxious?
- Mobility — While managing a small pet with poor mobility is not too difficult, caring for a Great Dane who is unable to walk without support can be an impossible burden.
- More good days than bad — Overall, tally up your pet’s good days. Do they outnumber the bad ones? Are you searching to find good moments in generally bad days? Once the balance shifts to more bad days than good, your pet’s end is near.
What should you do if your senior pet’s quality of life is poor?
If your pet’s assessment shows that their quality of life is less than acceptable, you need to start thinking about the end of their life. Consider how you want to let your pet go, whether naturally at home, or through humane euthanasia. Compare your pet’s aftercare options for one that best matches your views and values. Are you able to bury your pet at home, or would you prefer a gentle cremation process that uses water? How would you like to commemorate a lifetime of love shared with your pet? Thinking about these things before your pet’s passing can help you come to terms with the inevitable, and avoid the need to make difficult decisions when you are overwhelmed.
Knowing how to assess your senior pet’s quality of life is important as your four-legged companion ages. However, determining their comfort and happiness level can be challenging, and you may need help. Contact our Greenfield Veterinary Clinic team to schedule an evaluation of your senior pet’s quality of life.