When Is It Time To Consider Euthanasia

Electing humane euthanasia is one of the most compassionate things you can do for your ailing pet. However, it is often difficult to know when is the right time. Read on to learn more.

How to Know When it is Time to Consider Euthanasia

I’m here to broach a difficult but wildly important subject of quality of life. But first, let me introduce you to Buck. In all honestly, Buck was a terrible dog. Despite continuous training, he always had an intense prey drive and a bit a rogue streak – even at 13 he would try to drag me down the street to chase after a cat or a bunny.

He was also food motivated. If you know anything about dog training, you are probably thinking this was a benefit. However, his was a bit excessive. So much so that we installed a deadbolt on our pantry and found a padlock adaptable garage can that bolted to the wall. So much that he once ate a case of wet canned cat food and spit out the chewed cans like old gum. So much that I once had to remove a 4 inch shard of glass from his tongue after eating a chocolate cake and the stand it sat on.

Despite everyone, I loved that pain in the butt. He was a surprise birthday gift from my now husband, and was with me through veterinary school and the birth of my first child. We lost him a few years back. Despite that, I was lucky. One day the was swimming in the pool and the next he was struggling to stand. On evaluation, I believe he had a ruptured tumor that was leaking into the sack around his heart. There was no questioning it was his time to go – he even refused the Snickers bar I offered as a parting gift. He made the decision for me.

However, you won’t often face such clear cut signs. Certain disease states progress slowly over time or impact body systems not immediately vital necessary for survival. Examples include progressive osteoarthritis, chronic kidney disease, and cancerous processes. In these cases, it is hard to know when it is appropriate to proceed with euthanasia. Is today really that much worse than yesterday? Will tomorrow be even worse?

Pawspice Worsheet by Dr. Villalobos
Quality of Life Scale (The HHHHHMM Scale)

Pet caregivers can use this Quality of Life Scale to determine the success of Pawspice care.

Think about each category objectively and assign your pup a value ranging from 0-10 (10 is ideal). If you are unsure where your pet should rank, ask those around your pet for their opinion. But ultimately, follow your heart and go with your first instincts.

At the end, add up the totals to determine where your pet falls. A score above 35 is considered a suitable candidate for hospice care. This may mean that you need to provide your pooch with significant supportive care. However, with this care you can maintain a good quality of life for your furry friend.

Score Criterion
  1. HURT – Adequate pain control & breathing ability is of top concern. Trouble breathing outweighs all concerns. Is the pet’s pain well managed? Can the pet breathe properly? Is oxygen supplementation necessary? _________ pts
  2. HUNGER – Is the pet eating enough? Does hand feeding help? Does the pet need a feeding tube? _________ pts
  3. HYDRATION – Is the pet dehydrated? For patients not drinking enough water, use subcutaneous fluids daily or twice daily to supplement fluid intake. _________ pts
  4. HYGIENE – The pet should be brushed and cleaned, particularly after eliminations. Avoid pressure sores with soft bedding and keep all wounds clean. _________ pts
  5. HAPPINESS – Does the pet express joy and interest? Is the pet responsive to family, toys, etc.? Is the pet depressed, lonely, anxious, bored or afraid? Can the pet’s bed be moved to be close to family activities? _________ pts
  6. MOBILITY – Can the pet 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? _________ pts
  7. MORE GOOD DAYS THAN BAD – When bad days outnumber good days, quality of life might be too compromised. When a healthy human-animal bond is no longer possible, the caregiver must be made aware that the end is near. The decision for euthanasia needs to be made if the pet is suffering. If death comes peacefully and painlessly at home, that is okay. _________ pts

*TOTAL = ________ *A total over 35 points represents acceptable life quality to continue with pet hospice (Pawspice).

Quality of Life Scale (The HHHHHMM Scale)

Pet caregivers can use this Quality of Life Scale to determine the success of Pawspice care.

Think about each category objectively and assign your kitty a value ranging from 0-10 (10 is ideal). If you are unsure where your pet should rank, ask those around your pet for their opinion. But ultimately, follow your heart and go with your first instincts.

At the end, add up the totals to determine where your pet falls. A score above 35 is considered a suitable candidate for hospice care. This may mean that you need to provide your feline friend with significant supportive care. However, with this care you can maintain a good quality of life for your furry friend.

  1. Hurt – Adequate pain control, including breathing ability, is the first and foremost consideration. Is the cat’s pain successfully managed? Is Oxygen necessary? ________ pts
  2. HUNGER – Is the cat eating enough? Does hand feeding help?
    Does the patient require a feeding tube? ________ pts
  3. HYDRATION – Is the patient dehydrated? For cats not drinking or eating foods containing enough water, use subcutaneous fluids once or twice daily to supplement fluid intake. ________ pts
  4. HYGIENE – The patient should be kept brushed and cleaned. This is paramount for cats with oral cancer. Check the body for soiling after elimination. Avoid pressure sores and keep all wounds clean. ________ pts
  5. HAPPINESS – Does the cat express joy and interest? Is the cat responsive to things around him (family, toys, etc)? Does the cat purr when scratched or petted? Is the cat depressed, lonely, anxious, bored, afraid? Can the cat’s bed be near the kitchen and moved near family activities so as not to be isolated? ________ pts
  6. MOBILITY – Can the cat get up without help? Is the cat having seizures or stumbling? Some caregivers feel euthanasia is preferable to a definitive surgery, yet cats are resilient. Cats with limited mobility may still be alert and responsive and can have a good quality of life if the family is committed to providing quality care. ________ pts
  7. MORE GOOD DAYS THAN BAD –When bad days outnumber good days, quality of life for the dying cat might be too compromised. When a healthy human-animal bond is no longer possible, caregivers must be made aware that their duty is to protect their cat from pain by making the final call for euthanasia. The decision needs to be made if the cat has unresponsive suffering. If death comes peacefully and painlessly at home, that is okay. ________pts

*TOTAL = ________ *A total over 35 points represents acceptable life quality to continue with pet hospice (Pawspice).

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