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Measuring Your Pet's Quality of Life

In our line of business, it’s hard to shy away from difficult subjects like this one. We write all our blogs from the heart, so that our followers and customers can relate to us on a personal level.

How do you make the difficult decision to have your pet euthanised?

There is absolutely no doubt that this is one of the hardest decisions we must make as pet owners. It really is down to you as nobody else can make the decision for you. Your vet can advise, but ultimately the decision lies with you. This can feel like an awful lot of pressure on your shoulders, and isn’t a decision to be taken lightly. Take some time out to think through things, take a look at your pet and ask yourself if they are living the same quality of life as they used to. Speak to your vet, if your pet is in pain there are lots of medicines and procedures these days that can be considered before euthanasia which can maintain or even prolong your pet’s quality of life.

Palliative Care Palliative care doesn’t aim to cure your pet, but the goal is to manage your pet’s symptoms. This could be simply stopping an aggressive treatment which could be making your pet feel worse in themselves rather than helping their diagnosis. If your pet has a life-threatening diagnosis, palliative care can help them live out their final days in comfort if you think putting them through rounds of medication and treatment will be too much for them. It’s important to think about your pet’s age and how well you think they would cope with certain medication or treatments.

Quality of Life The quality of life of your pet is paramount and should be central to any decision you make. All pets should have freedom from:

  • Hunger or thirst

  • Discomfort

  • Pain, injury or disease

  • To express their normal behaviour

  • Fear and distress

These are the Five Freedoms, which were developed to assess an animal’s living conditions.

Measuring Your Pet’s Quality of Life Whilst the Five Freedoms provide a guide on your pet’s quality of life, it doesn’t provide any type of objective measure. There is however a measure we can refer to: HHHHHMM Quality of Life Scale. This stands for Hurt, Hunger, Hydration, Hygiene, Happiness, Mobility and More good days than bad. The purpose of the scale is to help owners, with the support of your vet, to measure your pet’s quality of life, often at a time where emotions are particularly raw. By scoring each section on a scale of 1-10, a score of 35 or more represents s significant quality of life.

Hurt: Is your pet receiving adequate pain control? Including breathing ability.

Hunger: Is your pet eating enough? Does hand feeding help? Does your pet require a feeding tube?

Hydration: Is your pet hydrated? For patients not drinking enough, use subcutaneous fluids once or twice daily to supplement fluid intake.

Hygiene: Your pet should be brushed and cleaned, particularly after elimination. Avoid pressure sores and keep all wounds dressed and clean.

Happiness: This is a big one. You know your pet better than anyone, and can often see in their eyes and expression whether they are themselves. Does your pet express joy and interest? Is your pet responsive to things around them such as family members, toys, etc? Is your pet lonely, depressed, bored or afraid? Can your pet’s bed be close to the family activities and not be isolated?

Mobility: Can your pet get up without assistance? Does your pet need human or mechanical help? Does your pet feel like going for a walk? Is your pet having seizures or stumbling? Some people can feel that euthanasia is preferable than amputation, yet an animal that has limited mobility but is still alert and responsive can still have a good quality of life as long as you are dedicated to helping your pet.

More Good Days Than Bad: When the bad days start to outnumber the good days, your pet’s quality of life may be compromised. When a healthy human-animal bond is no longer possible, you must be made aware that the end is near. The decision needs to be made if your pet is suffering. If death comes peacefully and painlessly, that is okay.


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