How to know when it is time to say goodbye?
This decision is the hardest part of owning a pet, our pets and companions have put their trust in us, and we must decide when enough is enough. I believe there are several important questions to ask yourself:
Is the pet still eating and drinking?
Can the pet walk enough to get up and go to the toilet by itself?
Is the pet still happy to see you?
Have you had your pet examined by a vet?
If all reasonable vet care has been given to the pet and there is nothing else you can do to relieve the suffering it may then be time to consider euthanasia.
People find this decision very difficult and spend a lot of time agonizing about it. Usually as the deterioration in the pet’s condition happens slowly and there is no clear reason or time to take the pet down to the vet. It is always good to talk to your vet about the condition of your pet as there maybe simple solutions to your pet’s problems. The vets’ job is to help you make this decision and then support you in this decision. Sometimes economic reasoning must come into the decision making, you could spend a lot more money but this may only extend the life of the pet for a small amount of time. Some people would put themselves into a lot of debt to pay for the treatment of their pets. This always humbles me as a vet that people would go without so much to save their pet. But sometimes people have to be realistic and see that the best solution is euthanasia, this can be quite painful to realize if you had more money you would go ahead with the treatment.
This is a difficult decision to make and you must balance the economic reality to the needs of the pet, your pet would not want you to suffer for it sake. When you know it is time for euthanasia you need to stay focused on that decision and do all the right things to make sure it is a good euthanasia.
By Michael O’Donoghue BVSc People and Pets
Dr. Alice Villalobos, the veterinarian who started Pawspice, a quality of life program for terminal pets, has published a scoring system for life quality called The HHHHHMM scale. The letters stand for: Hurt, Hunger, Hydration, Hygiene, Happiness, Mobility, and More Good Days than Bad.
|Quality of Life Scale: The HHHHHMM Scale
|Pet caregivers can use this Quality of Life Scale to determine the success of pawspice care. Score patients using a scale of 1 to 10.
|HURT – Adequate pain control, including breathing ability, is first and foremost on the scale. Is the pet’s pain successfully managed? Is oxygen necessary?
|HUNGER – Is the pet eating enough? Does hand feeding help? Does the patient require a feeding tube?
|HYDRATION – Is the patient dehydrated? For patients not drinking enough, use subcutaneous fluids once or twice daily to supplement fluid intake.
|HYGIENE – The patient should be brushed and cleaned, particularly after elimination. Avoid pressure scores and keep all wounds clean.
|HAPPINESS – Does the pet express joy and interest? Is the pet responsive to things around him or her (family, toys, etc.)? Is the pet depressed, lonely, anxious, bored or afraid? Can the pet’s bed be close to the family activities and not be isolated?
|MOBILITY – Can the patient get up without assistance? Does the pet need human or mechanical help (e.g., a cart)? Does the pet feel like going for a walk? Is the pet having seizures or stumbling? (Some caregivers feel euthanasia is preferable to amputation, yet an animal who has limited mobility but is still alert and responsive can have a good quality of life as long as caregivers are committed to helping the pet.)
|MORE GOOD DAYS THAN BAD – When bad days outnumber good days, quality of life might be compromised. When a healthy human-animal bond is no longer possible, the caregiver must be made aware the end is near. The decision needs to be made if the pet is suffering. If death comes peacefully and painlessly, that is okay.
|*A total over 35 points represents acceptable life quality
Adapted by Villalobos, A.E., Quality of Life Scale Helps Make Final Call, VPN, 09/2004, for Canine and Feline Geriatric Oncology Honoring the Human-Animal Bond, by Blackwell Publishing, Table 10.1, released 2006