How can I tell if my pet is suffering, and what is my pet’s quality of life?

“If you’re like most pet parents, it’s very difficult for you to determine if your animal is suffering since they can’t talk. Continue to read below to see if your pet meets any of these criteria. Also, remember you can schedule a Quality of Life consultation to have Dr. Brown provide an expert assessment.

Is your pet able to get up without your help? Do you notice your pet experience difficulty rising or moving with discomfort? Are they able to lay down comfortably or do they just fall to the floor?

Appetite and Drinking
How is their appetite? Are they eating more or less than normal? Increased or decreased water intake? Any episodes of vomiting or diarrhea?

Have they become fecal or urinary incontinent? Do they display an urgency to go outside or do they need to go outside more frequently? Are they having any trouble urinating or defecating?

Is your pet experiencing any respiratory distress? Do they become tired more easily with exercise? Do you notice any coughing or wheezing?

General Pain Level
Do they have a “stressed” look on their face? Do they make noises or groans when rising or moving around? Do they tend to stay in one location most of the day and show a reluctance to move? Do they act as if they don’t want to be petted or flinch when you show affection? Often this is a sign they are experiencing discomfort from simply touching them.

Have the sleep patterns changed? Are they having trouble sleeping through the night or pacing during normal sleeping times? Do they seem confused or disoriented when they awaken?

Happiness & Mental Acuity
Do they seem less responsive to things they would normally enjoy? Do they seem less alert when you come home or not as engaged? Are they acting confused about where they are in their normal surroundings?

Quality of Life
Is your pet having more bad days than good days? When the bad days outweigh the good days, then their quality of life has become compromised. When this happens, it is time to strongly consider in-home hospice care or in-home pet euthanasia.

Quality Of Life Worksheet
Most quality of life worksheets are based off this one or are very similar.

Using a scale of 1-poor to 10-best, patients can be assessed. Over 35 points is considered an acceptable quality of life. Under 35 points is unacceptable and medical care must be improved or euthanasia considered.

Quality of Life Scale The HHHHHMM Scale

Pet caregivers can use this Quality of Life Scale to determine the success of ‘pawspice’ care. Score patients using a scale of 1 to 10.

Category Criterion Score
Hurt Adequate pain control, including breathing ability, is first and foremost on the scale. Is the pet’s pain successfully managed? Is oxygen necessary?
Hunger Is the pet eating enough? Does hand feeding help? Does the patient require a feeding tube?
Hydration Is the patient dehydrated? For patients not drinking enough, use subcutaneous fluids once or twice daily to supplement fluid intake.
Hygiene The patient should be brushed and cleaned, particularly after elimination. Avoid pressure sores and keep all wounds clean.
Happiness Does the pet 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 Can the patient get up without assistance? Does the pet 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 When bad days outnumber good days, quality of life might be compromised. When a healthy human-animal bond is no longer possible, the caregiver must be made aware the end is near. The decision needs to be made if the pet is suffering. If death comes peacefully and painlessly, that is okay.
Total A total of 35 points is acceptable for a good ‘pawspice’

Adapted by Villalobos, A.E., Quality of Life Scale Helps Make Final Call, VPN, 09/2004, for Canine and Feline Geriatric Oncology Honoring the Human-Animal Bond, by Blackwell Publishing, Table 10.1, released 2006.

What if I am struggling to determine whether or not it is time?

We are available to schedule a home quality of life evaluation to help aid you in the decision-making process. Many times this results in the pet being placed in hospice mode. It also gives the opportunity to discuss concerns, better assess the situation, explain in detail the process and what to expect and to dispense oral sedatives/medications that may be needed prior to the end of life appointment. To schedule an appointment today Click Here.