Margaret C. Saiki, D.V.M.,
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How to decide the quality of life of my pet

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Pet Euthanasia: Does my pet have quality of life?

 Margaret Saiki


For many a cherished pet is member of the family. So having to decide to euthanize a pet is uniquely painful. In fact for many this might be their first experience with having to make such monumental, emotionally painful decision.

A decision to euthanize a pet is personal one. It is based on one's own sense of what they feel right for them and their animal. With the responsibility of pet ownership, comes the responsibility of being their stewards in life. Unfortunately, indecision plagues us. Did we do it too soon? Did we wait too long? Did I make the right decisions? Not resolving these feeling of anger and guilt slows the grieving process. A Pet hospice care veterinarian (Villalobos A, VPN, 09/2004) recently developed the HHHHHMM Quality of Life (QOL) Scale for use in patients. This scale has several functions. It can be adapted to help determine the quality of life for a pet, as well as help us decide when euthanasia is the right thing to do. 


The HHHHHHMM Quality of Life (QOL) Scale for Dogs and Cats


First and foremost, when measuring a pets’ quality of life (QoL) is that pain is adequately managed. There is no quality of life if the pet is experiencing the distress and pain of respiratory distress. Difficulty breathing is detected by closely watching the effort needed to breath. If the pet is having difficulty breathing there is no quality of live. Hospice care is not warranted and humane pet euthanasia is indicated. Diseases which cause difficulty breathing include those involving the heart, lungs, chest cavity, trachea and larynx. Patients should be examine to establish the source and type of pain the patient is suffering from. Pain medication can be given orally, transdermally and by injection. There are many different types of drugs used to control pain. Keep in mind that cats are nortorious for their ability to conceal pain. It is best to start pain medication on a preemptive basis. Many cats endure pointlessly because of this.


Is the pet eating and is it eating enough. Weight and food intake should be monitored. Good nutrition helps to maintain the petx' immune system, which is essential to decreasing secondary infections. If in 3-5 days the pet losses 10% of its body weight, supplementation is required. Cats in particular can be quite finicky. It may take patient coaxing and hand feeding in order for them to eat. Heating the food is important for most cats need to smell their food in order to eat. There are a variety of appetite stimulants which can be prescribed to increase their food intake. They seem to work especially well in the cat. Cancer has been shown to alter the body’s metabolism of protein, fat and carbohydrates. Cancer uses simple carbohydrates preferentially as an energy source so the optimal diet is one that is lower in simple carbohydrates and higher in proteins and fats. A veterinary oncologist or cancer specialist should be consulted for recommendations.


Pets must be drinking enough water to prevent dehydration. Adequate fluid intake is 22ml/kg/day. Subcutaneous fluids can be administered to help maintain a pets hydration. This is the administration of a balance sterile electrolyte fluid just under the skin. Many owners when trained feel comfortable enough to administer fluids subcutaneously on their own. Others hire trained pet care takers to administer the fluids.


Is the pet able to maintain proper bodily function and thus able to maintain good hygiene. Owner can help in many aspects by keeping wounds clean, preventing weight sores brushing and cleaning. Good hygiene is important for the pets mental well-being Cats are fastidious groomers and feel much better when well kept.


Estimate the level of happiness of your pet? Does you pet seem bored, depressed, anxious do they interact with the rest of the family?

1. Bring about events you know your pet will enjoy. Play with them, talk to them and pet them.

2. Move them closer to where the family interacts not keep them apart.

3. Does your cat purr and enjoy being on your lap? Does your cat still bat at a toy? Watch a laser light? Perk up with catnip?

4. Take your pets outside to sit on the grass and enjoy the sun.


1. For larger dogs mobility can be a challenge. Is your pet able to stand and move about on their own? If left immobile, they are prone to secondary recumbent pneumonia and bed sores. 

2. Sadly, for these larger dogs, the inability to be mobile because of various musculoskeletal problems is a usual reason for humane pet euthanasia.

3. Provide your pet with soft bedding.

4. Is your pet able to move around the house for meals, elimination or to be closer to the rest of the family? For cats changing to low rimmed litter boxes or providing small steps up and down to the bed are ideas to improve their mobility about the house.

More Good Days than Bad Days

1. A pet's quality of the life is compromised if they experinece more than 3-5 bad days in a row. Humane pet euthanasia shoule be considered. 

2. Bad days maybe those filled with undesirable experiences such as vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, frustration or falling down, or when they are not experiencing events of happiness. 

Suffering to death:

Some individuals feel that they want their pets to have a natural death. However some dying pets suffer at the end with dreadful respiratory distress they thrash about and become agonal before death. This is not a natural death. In the wild, sick and ill animals will naturally become pray and do not survive long enough to endure suffering to death. Although euthanasia (Greek: good death) is not natural, but it is humane.

A visit by a mobile Veterinary service or a veterinary house call practice makes it more convenient and less stressful for the pet hospice patient. Many pets dislike traveling to the Veterinary hospital. null A home visit also allows the veterinarian (Mobile House Call Veterinarian) especially one who provides pet hospice care has the ability to judge and make suggestions about the pets' environment which can improve the quality of life for your pet. Lastly, many owners now have a alternative to have their pets pass peacefully in the comfort of their homes with an in home pet euthanasia


For a more detailed description on the HHHHHMM QoL scale, loving in home pet euthanasia and pet hospice care please visit  the rest our website

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