One of the frequent questions we get as veterinarians is when is it time to euthanize a beloved pet. This is a very difficult question for all of us, but I have attached a questionnaire that may help you with this journey.
Here are some ideas for you to consider:
- We all hope that our aged pet passes away in their sleep. While this occasionally happens, more often we find that we must intervene because they are suffering.
- We all wait for some sign to tell us today is the day to make the decision. I have only had this happen once with my own pets. My last dog Max gave me a look that said “I just cannot go on”, and I euthanized him that day. Most times it is an accumulation of many problems that occur over time. We must try to evaluate what their quality of life is, and then decide if it is time.
- We all feel a little guilty making this decision. We all feel in our hearts there must be something else we can do even if all options have been pursued. Be assured this is normal.
Quality of Life Scoring System
This system is designed for your use at home to try to quantify how your older pet is doing. It is subjective, but you can compare how things are going over time. We all hope our older pet passes away in their sleep when their time is up. Many times, however, this is not the best. We do not want our pets to suffer or to have no quality of life.
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.
0-10 HURT Is your pet in pain? Does medication help? Are they breathing comfortably?
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 Does your pet groom itself? Can you brush and clean them? Do they constantly soil themselves?
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.
Table from AVMA – Senior Pet Care