(When Quality of Life Leaves our Best Friends)
"When is the right time to euthanize my beloved pet and how will I know?" This is a difficult question for anyone to answer including your veterinarian. We all want to keep our best friends around forever, but unfortunately, this is not possible. We feel guilty even trying to make the decision to say good-bye. One method that may help with this decision is to look at our elderly and ill friends from a "pawspice" perspective and gage their "quality of life" with the following scale. A score of five or more on most of these issues is acceptable in maintaining a "pawspice" program.
HURT 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Clinical signs of pain including hiding, not moving for long periods of time, behavioral changes such as aggression, reduced appetite, no longer socializes with family, increased heart rate, respiratory rate, etc. Your pet may be responsive to pain medications provided by your veterinarian. However, eventually your pet may become less responsive to these medications and the pain will return.
HUNGER 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Malnutrition develops quickly in sick animals. Caloric intake may be maintained by hand or force-feeding if the pet is unable or unwilling to feed his/herself. In extreme cases, a feeding tube may be an option. Consider how dramatic it is for your pet to be force-fed or fed through a feeding tube.
HYDRATION 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Subcutaneous fluids are a wonderful way to supplement fluid intake of ailing pets. It may take a few training sessions for a pet owner to get the hang of this procedure but it is well tolerated by most pets.
HYGIENE 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Can the pet be kept brushed and cleaned? Is the coat matted? Is the pet situated properly so that it won't have to lie in its own waste after eliminations? Pets, especially cats with oral cancer, can't keep themselves clean, so they get demoralized quickly.
The oder associated with oral tumors can be offensive and cause social rejection by family members. Antibiotics help reduce foul smelling infections and using a sponge dampened with a very dilute solution of lemon juice and hydrogen peroxide (to mimic the gentle stroking action of a "mother's tongue" on the face, paws, and legs) helps soothe and clean cats' fur. Dogs enjoy this too.
HAPPINESS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Can the ailing pet enjoy the upbeat greetings and petting of loving family? Is the pet able to experience any joy or mental situation? It is easy to see that our pets communicate with their eyes. Is the ailing pet able to interact with the family and be responsive to things going on around him? Is the aging cat able to purr and enjoy being on the bed or in one's lap? Is there a response to a bit of catnip? Can the cat bat at toys or look at or follow a laser light?
Can the ailing pet enjoy the upbeat greetings of loving family members? Can the pet's bed be moved close to the family's activities and not left in an isolated or neglected area? Is the pet depressed, lonely, anxious, bored or afraid?
MOBILITY 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Is the pet able to move around on its own or with help in order to satisfy his/her desires? Does the pet feel like going out for a walk? Is the pet showing central nervous system problems such as seizures or stumbling? Can the pet be taken outdoors or helped into the litter box to eliminate with assistance? Will a harness, sling, or a cart be helpful? Is medication helping? Is amputation of a painful limb an option? If the pet is compromised and is only able to lie in bed, is there a schedule to change the position of the pet and rotate the body as often as every two hours? Lung compression and bed sores must be avoided. The nursing care of large immobile dogs is very demanding. Is the bedding material soft enough? Can an egg crate mattress be used and set up properly to avoid bed sores? Is the pet alert and responsive despite being immobile?
MORE GOOD DAYS THAN BAD
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
When there are too many bad days in a row or if the pet seems to be "turned off" to life, quality of life is compromised. Bad days are filled with undesirable experiences such as vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, frustration, seizures, etc. Bad days could be from profound weakness caused by anemia or from discomfort caused by an obstruction of a large, inoperable tumor in the abdomen.
Many pet owners hope that their pet will pass on in peaceful tranquility. This is okay for those pets that are just weakening steadily, but for those pets who are truly suffering to death, euthanasia is a humane option.