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When is it Time to Say Goodbye: End of Life Pet Care

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The bond between humans and pets is a special thing. It’s different from the way we feel connected to family and friends, but the connection is strong nevertheless.  So as the family dog or cat ages, we feel torn when trying to make end of life decisions. We don’t want to say goodbye too soon, but we don’t want our furry friends to experience prolonged suffering. We want their last days to be enjoyable and meaningful for them and for us. 

At Jefferson Animal Hospital, we deal with families in this tough situation every day. Maybe your cat or dog is older and has multiple health problems, but still seems to have some good moments and you don’t want to cut their time with you too short. At the same time, they can’t talk to you so you wonder if they’re experiencing more pain then you know. To help you make a more informed and better decision, we wanted to point you to this Quality of Life Scale. 

Pet care-givers can use this Quality of Life Scale to determine if your pet has acceptable life quality (a total of over 35 points needed for acceptable quality of life. Each question should be rated 1-10, with 10 being the highest)

Quality of Life Scale

  • Hurt: Adequate pain control and breathing ability is the top concern. Is oxygen supplementation necessary? Pain in our pets looks different than it does for us. The way we can most easily identify pain in our pets is by anxiety. “For example, many end-stage arthritis canine patients begin panting, pacing, whining, and/or crying, but many of these symptoms are due to anxiety, usually arising secondarily from the pain.” (0=no pain 10=significant, persistent pain)
  • Hunger: Is the pet eating enough. Does he/she need a feeding tube? 
  • Hydration: Is your pet dehydrated? Dogs need .5-1 oz per pound of water per day. Cats need to drink 3.5-4.5 oz of water per day per every 5 lbs of body weight. 
  • Hygiene: Your pet needs to be brushed and cleaned especially after eliminations. Do they allow you to keep them clean/is it possible to keep them clean. Avoid pressure sores with soft bedding. 
  • Happiness: Does your pet express joy and interest? Do they seem depressed, anxious, or afraid? Pain can often make them feel these ways.
  • Mobility: Can your pet get up with on their own or do they require assistance? A pet with limited mobility can still be alert, responsive, and happy. If they have limited mobility, move them (and their bed) to where the action is so they can still be a part of the family. 
  • More Good Days than Bad: When bad days outnumber good days, a healthy human-animal bond may not be possible. 

A score of under 35 is indicative of significant suffering. Their quality of life isn’t good and euthanasia may be the best decision so that the end is as peaceful as possible.

Making the Decision

Deciding to euthanize your pet could bring about feelings of guilt, but we want to urge out clients that they don’t need to feel this way. The decision to end a pet’s suffering won’t be made alone and we’ll do our best to help you decide what’s best for you and your furry friend. Often times ending a pet’s suffering can be the most compassionate thing you can do and you’ll be glad you said your goodbyes when you did. 

If you’re in the Louisville, Kentucky area and have further questions about end of life care for your cat or dog, please call us at 502-966-4104 for our Outer Loop office or 502-499-6535 for our Fern Creek Office.