Dr. Alice Villalobos, a veterinary oncologist has come up with a very useful tool, the ‘HHHHHMM’ (Hurt, Hunger, Hydration, Hygiene, Happiness, Mobility, More Good Days Than Bad) Quality of Life Scale. It helps decide whether or not to continue to provide supportive care to a pet.
Our pets are so dear to us. We always keep wishing that they had lived a little longer with us. There are times when the health of a pet deteriorates beyond recovery. It may be due to an accident, surgery, old age, or terminal illness. Even after the best of treatments, the pet continues to suffer the pangs of excruciating pain. There comes a time when your once-active pet does not even find the energy to move and go to his feeding bowl. At such a time, the vet asks you to take one of the most difficult decisions in your life—to euthanize your pet.
While the decision puts emotional burden on you, it would relive your pet from his misery and pain. However, later on, you may wonder if it was too early to have taken such a decision, and whether showing some patience would have helped it to recover. In order to avoid such feelings of guilt, regret, and stress, you must be absolutely sure that it was the right time to euthanize your pet. But how?
If your pet is not as active as earlier, and spends most of his time lying down, he may be suffering from acute weakness and depression. This will indicate that the quality of his life has decreased drastically.
If your once-active pet, who used to run to his feeding bowl all the time, is not even getting up to eat his food now, he may be suffering a lot. If he is eating only after being force-fed, the vet may advice you to end his life, depending on what illness he is suffering from.
If your pet prefers to lie down, or finds it laborious even to walk, he is in severe pain. Also, if he cannot stand and falls down every time he tries to walk, there must be something seriously wrong with him.
If your pet is terminally ill, he may not have control over his urinary and bowel movements. If the vet suspects that this cannot be reversed, he will suggest euthanasia. If your pet is soiling its bedding, it may be a sign that the time has come to bid him goodbye.
Loss of Senses
There are a few dogs who lose their sense of sight or hearing due to old age. This causes them to live an extra-dependent life, and restricts their movement. If this is beyond treatment, it is time to euthanize your pet.
If your pet is finding respiration difficult, such that even normal breathing has become a laborious task for him, euthanasia may be the only answer. Sometimes, respiratory problems are also followed by heavy coughing.
Dehydration and Weight Loss
If your pet is rejecting water, and is suffering from constant vomiting and diarrhea, it may lead to dehydration as well as weight loss. This is a serious condition in animals if the problem persists for some time.
If your vet thinks that it is probably time to say goodbye, then you should consider putting your pet to sleep. However, you can always take a second opinion of another vet whom you trust, to ensure that euthanasia is the only available option.
Consult Family and Friends
Seek the opinion of family and close friends. They will help you to think in the right direction. Instead of taking an emotional decision, and either putting your pet to sleep or allowing it to suffer, they can guide you in taking the right decision.
Quality of Life
Write down five favorite activities of your pet. If you observe that he cannot do even three of them, it means that his quality of life has been affected. If your pet’s quality of life has altered drastically, where he no longer gets excited about going on walks, interacting with other pets, getting treats, etc., then it indicates that he is sick and weak, and is finding it difficult to live his life properly.
Unfortunately, our pets do not live as long as we do. When they come into our life, we know that their company is short-lived. After a certain age, they start showing signs of aging, like slowing down, vision and hearing loss, incontinence, etc. After a couple of years, these problems aggravate, and this may cause them to suffer a lot. At such a time, your vet may say that it is in the best interest to put your pet to sleep.
If your pet has been involved in an accident which has left him incapable of movement, or he is in excruciating pain, there are chances that the vet may suggest euthanasia as an option.
Sometimes, surgery and medicines do not work for pets. If due to cancer or any other chronic illness, your pet is experiencing extreme pain which is beyond the control of medicines, it is best to euthanize your pet to relieve him of his misery.
Just like humans, our furry friends are also prone to organ damage. If any of the important organs like the heart, liver, brain or kidneys are damaged, the vet may suggest that it is time for euthanasia, if the problem is beyond rectification.
Good Days vs. Bad Days
You can also judge the quality of your pet’s life by the following method. On a calendar, tick-mark the good days the pet has, and cross-mark the bad ones. Good days are those days when he is feeling well, while the bad days as those that he is feeling down. If the number of bad days exceed the good days, it is time to get your pet checked thoroughly.
Euthanasia is the Only Option Left
It may have happened that your pet had to undergo a surgery due to an accident. However, it didn’t help much, and in fact, deteriorated the quality of your pet’s life. Doctors have said that your pet will not be able to survive, and shall pass away sooner or later. However, he is in extreme pain, and euthanizing him will be a wise choice to end his misery.
In spite of all this, many pet owners just know that it is time to alleviate the pain of their beloved pet. They find it difficult to see their pet suffer and die a slow, painful death. However, there are a few cases where there are better options than euthanasia. For example, if your pet has behavioral problems, you can take it to a veterinary behaviorist. If you have decided to put a sick pet to sleep, only because you cannot afford its medical expenses, seek financial assistance or donations. It is advisable that you take opinions of multiple vets before you decide to bid your pet goodbye. What is more important, is that, the pet who is a part of your family, doesn’t have to undergo a lot of suffering and pain.