Watching a beloved pet age and experience changes in their quality of life can be a difficult and emotional experience for any pet owner. As pets become older, they may develop health issues that impact their ability to enjoy life as they once did. It’s important to pay attention to these changes and understand how they may impact your pet’s overall well-being. For some families, euthanasia may become a consideration when their pet’s quality of life has declined to a point where they are no longer able to live comfortably or happily.
Dr Patrick’s aim is to keep your pet as comfortable and pain free as possible. With this in mind, we want to offer you the latest information about your pet’s quality of life and help you with some advance health care planning. Furthermore, this article will explain the options available to you when considering the right time for your pet’s euthanasia at home.
Quality of Life—What To Discuss With Your Veterinarian
Discussing your pet’s quality of life with a veterinarian prior to making a decision about euthanasia is crucial for several reasons.
- Your veterinarian can help you understand the specific issues that your pet may be experiencing and how these issues may impact their daily life. This includes evaluating factors such as pain, mobility, appetite, and overall comfort.
- Your veterinarian can help you explore alternative options for managing your pet’s health issues. This may include medication, changes to their diet or environment, or other forms of treatment that could help improve their quality of life.
- Discussing your pet’s quality of life with a veterinarian can help you make an informed decision about euthanasia. They can provide you with the information you need to determine if euthanasia is the most humane option for your pet given their specific circumstances.
When making decisions about end-of-life care for your pet, your vet will assess your pet’s overall health condition with a focus on their length of life vs. quality of life (i.e. distress, anxiety or suffering). If quality of life is poor, then euthanasia may be the best option. This is an intensely personal decision however, so these factors are best discussed with your regular Veterinarian or Veterinary Specialist, i.e. Vet Oncologist or Cardiologist before making the final decision.
Finally, discussing your pet’s quality of life with a veterinarian can help you prepare emotionally for the decision. Dr Patrick can help you understand what to expect during the euthanasia process and provide you with resources and support to help you cope with the loss of your pet.
Quality of Life Assessment—Your Pet’s Current Health Condition
During a Quality of Life consultation your veterinarian will perform a physical examination of your pet. They may also observe and ask you some questions about your pet’s general demeanour and behaviour.
This assessment will include:
- General signs of declining quality of life, such as difficulty moving, decreased appetite or changes in behaviour.
- Level of pain
- Level of anxiety
- Level of defects in normal body functions, i.e. ability to move and to eliminate (urine or faeces).
- Ability to breathe, i.e. without coughing, or rapid or forced respiration.
- Level of mobility, with or without pain or weakness
- Impending sudden or severe symptoms i.e. seizures or sudden cardio-respiratory failure.
- Behavioural changes, i.e. sudden aggression due to pain or brain disease that may affect children.
- Severe weight loss with weakness.
- Cognitive decline, i.e. dementia like disease, changes in activity levels, restlessness, toileting accidents and disorientation.
- Loss of sight and or hearing. On their own, these signs may be associated with ageing, however added to any of the above, they can add to your pets burden and cause distress.
Deciding When Is The Right Time For Euthanasia
Deciding when is the right time to euthanase your beloved pet is one of the most difficult decisions a pet owner may face. It can be an emotional and overwhelming process, and there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Every pet and every situation is unique, and what may be the right decision for one pet may not be the same for another.
During the at-home euthanasia visit, Dr Patrick will review your pet’s history and your thoughts regarding the timing of euthanasia. Factors to consider include:
- The types of treatments available to help improve the pet’s quality of life.
- The pros and cons of each treatment option and how long they may provide relief.
- Possible side-effects of treatment.
- The timing of euthanasia in relation to your pet’s declining quality of life.
- The likelihood of your pet’s condition improving, and if it is likely to worsen.
Dr Patrick will also determine the impact of repeated vet visits for consultations, and repeat tests, surgeries etc.
Pets are family members and their loss can be a significant emotional event. In addition to evaluating your pet’s current health condition, Dr Patrick will also take the time to talk with you about your pet’s quality of life and other factors that could affect your family.
Involving the entire family in the decision-making process can help ensure that everyone’s feelings and perspectives are taken into account. Different family members may also have different observations about their pet’s health and behaviour that can help inform the decision. For instance, involving children in the decision-making process can help them understand and cope with the loss of their pet. It can also help them feel like they have a sense of control in a situation that can otherwise feel overwhelming and confusing.
Points for discussion may include:
- The emotional, physical, and financial cost of providing long-term care for your pet.
- The importance of providing emotional support to your family.
- The availability of pet hospice care, either in a hospital or at home to help you and your pet during this difficult time.
- Family timing, e.g. waiting for partners returning home from distant work, or children travelling from interstate.
- Discussion of who is to be present at the time of euthanasia. i.e. young children, friends and relatives, or other pets.
- Choose at-home pet euthanasia, or outside at a favourite location such as a park, river or beach.
If you would like to book a Quality of Life assessment for your pet, or if you have questions about a peaceful passing for your pet at home, please contact Dr Patrick for a private phone consultation.