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Quality of Life

When is it time to say good bye to your pet?

Dr. Lianna Titcombe

Pet owners often struggle with the decision of when it is time to let go and choose to end the life of their beloved companion. Above all, they don’t want their pet to suffer; they want them to have a certain quality of life. This can be hard for a pet owner to determine on their own so they will often turn to their trusted veterinarian to help them make this most heart wrenching decision. Thus I have created a questionnaire regarding your pet’s quality of life, which may be used as a guide during end-of-life decision making.

Your pet’s quality of life can be comprised of three elements: physical, emotional, and social

Physical

☐ Are they able to breathe comfortably?

☐ Are they eating and drinking well? Or losing weight and becoming dehydrated?

☐ Are they able to walk, urinate, defecate, and groom on their own?

☐ Are they able to have a restful sleep?

Emotional

☐ Do they still have a reasonable level of control over their environment?

☐ Are they able to enjoy their usual routine?

☐ Do they have a good level of mental stimulation and engagement?

☐ Are they coping with the stress of ill health well? (such as urine soiling, ability to do stairs, etc.)

☐ Are they experiencing any level of anxiety or distress?

Social

☐ Do they still have the same level of interaction with the family?

☐ Do they still enjoy relationships with other animals?

☐ For outdoor cats, are they still able to go out and explore?

☐ For dogs, can they still go to the park or for walks to meet other people and dogs?

Is your pet in pain?

Here are some signs to look for:

☐ Trembling

☐ Panting

☐ Increased heart rate

☐ Vocalizing

☐ Restlessness

☐ Limping

☐ Slow to rise

☐ Reluctant to move

☐ Change in energy level

☐ Hesitant to touch

☐ Acting out of character

Is your pet suffering?

Remember, suffering doesn’t necessarily mean in pain

Some questions to ask yourself

☐ Is your pet still affectionate and playful?

☐ Has your pet’s personality changed?

☐ Are they still interested in daily activities?

☐ Would you say your pet is happy?

☐ Are they engaged with the family and interactive or tired, withdrawn, and hiding?

☐ Is your pet experiencing more bad days than good days?

☐ How has your relationship with your pet changed?

☐ How are you coping? Caring for a sick pet is hard work and takes its toll physically, emotionally, and financially. How is your quality of life?

Develop a personal bottom line

☐ What makes life worth living for your pet?

☐ At what point do you think life would no longer be worth living (under what circumstances)?

☐ Record this (possibly in a journal) in order to revisit later to help you in your decision