When you first bring your four legged friend home, they are so full of energy and life. The thought that one day they might not be there is so out of your head because it seems to be a long way off. As in most cases, time flies, in a blink of an eye your pet could be looking at 14 or 16 years of age, and it’s then that one of life’s most difficult decisions needs to be made.
A dog is not just a pet, they are part of the family, but their life span is not as great at great aunt Margret that lived to 102, so your pets death is something that you are going to have to deal with. If you have had pets all your life, then it’s probably something you have dealt with before.
There are always stories of people spending a huge amount of money to keep their pet around, and while you would, of course, do this for any member of the family, for your pet vets want you to consider the quality of life. In 2004 the Quality of Life Scale was created by Alice Villalobos from Pawspice. The QoL Scale was based on the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare that was designed for farm animals in the UK. This system helps vets and families judge the animal’s quality of life and help guide those hard to make choices.
The scale breaks down into five main parts that you may need to take into consideration.
How is their pain?
This is an obvious top of the list because if your pet is in pain, then there is something terribly wrong. The biggest tell in dogs is when they have trouble breathing. Signs of this might include panting while resting and increased vocalisations. If they are having a lot of trouble, they may not be as social as they used to be and can even be aggressive if someone gets too close or pets a little too hard. Changes to their eating and drinking habits and sleeping more than usual are also big warning signs. In some more severe cases, their coat might be very dull, and hair might stand up in places.
Eating & Drinking
Almost as obvious as pain, you might not notice a big change at first but perhaps the food dish isn’t needing a refill as often, or you start to notice your pet looking a bit leaner. The cause could be simple or something more dangerous, but if your dog isn’t eating you need to take it to the vet as soon as possible.
To check if a dog is getting proper hydration is something that you can do at home. If you lift the skin between your dog’s shoulder blades, the skin of well-hydrated dogs will almost snap back into place while those that are in need of fluids the skin will retract slowly. Again, the cause could be simple or more complex; it’s best to take your dog to the vet.
Has your pet been unable to get up on the couch, perhaps having difficulty getting up and down the stairs then there might be a joint or muscle issue that is limiting them. This limitation could also be causing them pain. Another subtle sign is if when you are walking your dog that they sit down or stop more often than usual.
Some accidents are bound to happen as a pet gets older. However, if it starts appearing like the dog isn’t making an effort to move before having an accident, then there is defiantly an issue.
More good days or more bad days?
Happiness and contentment are key to any pet’s life. How is your pet acting to its favourite toy? Is it showing any interest in playing? Are they hiding and not letting you pet them as much?
If there are more bad days with seizures, vomiting, or other illness related problem than there are of being a happy dog than it might mean that your beloved pet is nearing the end. While making the choice to have your pet put down is one of the hardest you might ever have to make sure that they don’t suffer needlessly for selfish reasons.
If you have any questions about the QoL Scale or your pet’s overall health, it’s always important to seek the advice of a professional veterinarian.