All Pets Veterinary Clinic

QUALITY OF LIFE AND THE DECISION TO EUTHANIZE

The decision to pursue additional medical treatments or consider euthanasia for a sick
or chronically ill pet is a hard decision to make for many pet owners. This handout
has been designed to help you consider the quality of life of your pet and to help make
you aware of some of the additional options that exist if it is not the right time for
euthanasia. Answer each of the questions in each section with a yes or no.

PAIN

Pain control is essential. Many animals do not complain in obvious, visible ways
when they hurt. Many animals will hide their discomfort. Consider the following:
____My pet hurts.
____My pet limps. (If it didn’t hurt, they wouldn’t limp.)
____My pet pants frequently, even at rest.
____My pet’s respirations are forced, exaggerated, or otherwise not normal.
____My pet licks repeatedly at one site on his/her body or at a site of a cancer/tumor.
____My pet guards or protects and area of his/her boddy and may snap if that area is
approached or touched.
____My animal’s posture is abnormal or different than normal.
____My pet shakes or trembles sometimes during rest.
____My pet is on pain medication and it doesn’t work.

Possible interventions for yes answers: start pain medication, change pain medications,
combinations of pain medications from different drug classes, surgical intervention,
non-traditional medicine (acupuncture, etc.), treat the underlying disease/condition.


APPETITE

Appetite is one of the most obvious signs of wellness. Most animals are normally
vigorous eaters. Consider the following:
____My pet doesn’t eat his/her normal food anymore.
____My pet picks at his/her food now but never used to do this.
____My pet walks over to his/her food and looks at it but won’t eat or walks away from
the food.
____My pet doesn’t even want “good stuff” (treats, human foods, snacks) anymore.
____My pet acts nauseated or vomits.
____My pet is losing weight.

Possible interventions for yes answers: hand feeding, heating food, adding moisture
by soaking food or using canned varieties, careful addition of human foods, syringe
feeding, stomach tube placement, medications for appetite stimulation, medications
for nausea.


HYDRATION

Hydration status is equally important as appetite. Without adequate water consumption,
your pet can become dehydrated. Dehydration can contribute to weakness and not feeling well.
Consider the following:
____My pet doesn’t drink as much as he/she used to.
____My pet frequently has dry, sticky gums.
____My pet is vomiting or has diarrhea (fluid loss can also contribute to dehydration).

Possible interventions for yes answers: add moisture to the diet, subcutaneous fluid
administration, medications to control vomiting or diarrhea.


HYGIENE

Animals that don’t feel well, especially cats, do not have the energy to maintain
normal hair and skin. Consider the following:
____My cat doesn’t groom herself any more.
____My pets hair is matted, greasy, rough looking, dull, or foul smelling.
____My pet has stool pasted around his/her rectum or in his/her hair.
____My pet smells like urine or has skin irritation from urine.
____My pet has pressure sores/wounds that won’t heal.

Possible interventions for yes answers: regular brushing and grooming, frequent bedding
changes, adequate padding for areas where the pet spends a lot of time, appropriate
wound care, treat the underlying disease/condition.


ACTIVITY/MOBILITY

Changes in normal activity can be due to mobility problems, pain, illness, or aging
(arthritis). Consider the following:
____My pet cannot get up without assistance.
____My pet had a hard time getting around and/or limps.
____My pet lays in one place all day long.
____My pet does not want to play ball, go for walks, or do the things he/she used to do.
____My pet falls frequently.

Possible interventions for yes answers: pain medication addition or adjustment, physical therapy.


HAPPINESS/MENTAL STATUS

Another important area of consideration is the pet’s mental status and happiness. Consider
the following:
____My pet does not express joy and interest in life.
____My pet does not respond to the people that he/she used to respond to.
____My pet does not want to play with toys or do other things that he/she used to enjoy.
____My pet seems dull, not alert, or depressed.


GENERAL BEHAVIOR PATTERNS

Changes in normal behavioral patterns are often a key indicator of how well and animal
feels. Consider the following:
____My pet is hiding or sleeping in odd places.
____My pet doesn’t greet me when I come home and he/she used to.
____My pet is overly clingy and is following me around and he/she never used to do this.
____My other pets are treating this pet differently—they are overly attentive or ignoring
him/her completely.
____My pet doesn’t care about what is going on around him/her.


OWNER PERCEPTIONS

Many times an owner is aware that their pet is suffering but does not want to give up
on their pet. Consider the following:
____I wouldn’t want to live if I were in a similar situation.
____I would be painful if I were in a similar situation.
____I have made appointments for euthanasia for this pet cancelled or didn’t show up.
____I am holding onto this pet for some sentimental reason. (ex. the pet belonged to
a now deceased family member, the pet helped me through a hard time in my life, etc.)
____ My pet is having more bad days than good days.


Count the number of yes and no answers that you have marked. ____Yes ____No

Unfortunately, there isn’t a simple point system or scale that will tell you exactly
what do for your pet. However, the more yes answers you have, the more likely it is
that your pet has a poor quality of life. This list has been significantly expanded
and altered from an article on quality of life. The original scale uses 50% as a cutoff.
If this information is extrapolated, it would imply that more than 21 yes answers means
your pet has a diminished quality of life. If this is the case, you have two options:
1. Make major changes to try to improve your pet’s quality of life (like some of the
things listed above) or 2. Euthanize your pet to relieve his/her suffering.

Please do not hesitate to contact us to further discuss this handout and your pet’s
specific situation.


The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not
intended to take the place of your regular veterinarian. Please do not hesitate
to contact your regular veterinarian if you have questions regarding your pet.


Very loosely adapted from Quality of Life Scale, Veterinary Practice News, June 2006, pg. 24.

Karen Blakeley, DVM, MPH
1 December 2006