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Measuring the Quality of Life

Having a pet provides us with years of happ ymemories.  However, as our pets age and become medically afflicted, we must take into account their quality of life.  Making end of life deciions for our pets is incredibly difficult.  Humans tend to remember the good days or fear what might come next whereas animals live in the moment.  They do not dwell on the past or worry about the future, all they know is how they feel at the present time.  Therefore, we want to be sure their present moments provide more comfort than pain.  Here are a few suggestions for measuring the quality of your pet's life that may assist in making the final decisions:

Is Life a Joy or a Drag?
Our pets may not be able to talk to us and tell us how they are doing, but if we pay close attention, there are many clues that can help us answer that question.

The Rule of "Five Good Things"
Pick the top five things that your pet loves to do. Write them down. When he or she can no longer do three or more of them, quality of life has been impacted to a level where many veterinarians would recommend euthanasia.

Good Days vs. Bad
When pets have "good days and bad days," it can be difficult to see how their condition is progressing over time. Actually tracking the days when your pet is feeling good as well as the days when he or she is not feeling well can be helpful. A check mark for good days and an X for bad days on your calendar can help you determine when a loved one is having more bad days than good.

HHHHHMM
Doctor Alice Villalobos is a well-known veterinary oncologist. Her "HHHHHMM" Quality of Life Scale is another useful tool. The five H's and two M's are: Hurt, Hunger, Hydration, Happiness, Hygiene (the ability to keep the pet clean from bodily waste), Mobility and More (as in, more good days than bad). Dr. Villalobos recommends grading each category on a scale of 1-10 (with 1 being poorest quality of life and 10 being best). If the majority of categories are ranked as 5 or above, continuing with supportive care is acceptable.

Pet Hospice Journal
Keeping a journal of your pet's condition, behavior, appetite, etc., can be extremely valuable in evaluating quality of life over time.

(excerpt from Dr. Andy Roark, www.vetstreet.com)