Throughout our pets’ lifetimes we give them everything– our time, energy, attention, and sometimes even the food off our plates! Most importantly we give them all the love in our hearts. The final gift we are able to give our furry family members is peace.
The decision to euthanize is one of the most difficult we must face as pet owners. We are often faced with impossible questions, such as “How do I know when it’s time?” or “Am I making the right decision?” There are no right answers to these questions. However, having a clear assessment of your pet’s quality of life may help guide your decision-making process.
What is quality of life? It is broadly defined as the overall mental and physical state of our companion animals. Instead of relying on a single factor to determine how our friends are doing in their final years, we encourage pet owners to take a holistic view of their pet’s well-being. This is rarely a straightforward assessment. Towards the end of their life, your pet will experience ups and downs. Doing what is best for you and your pet often means balancing the good days against the bad days. So, what are some helpful ways to assess how your pet is doing?
Consult with your veterinarian.
Your veterinarian has been your pet’s healthcare advocate since the very beginning. They’ve seen your pet year after year, through sickness and health. If your pet has a chronic condition such as heart disease, your primary care veterinarian has likely worked closely with a specialist to monitor the progression. Your veterinarian will be able to provide valuable insight into what you can expect as your pet’s condition progresses. Additionally, they will know if there are unexplored treatment and intervention options.
As a medical professional, your veterinarian will help you navigate the decision to euthanize. As trusted members of your pet’s medical team, your primary care veterinarian and specialists will help you weigh your options as you start to consider your pet’s quality of life.
Talk to your friends and family.
Living with our pets day in and day out, it can be easy to miss some of the gradual changes that occur, such as weight loss, lethargy, or a depressed attitude. Talking openly with family or friends may help you gain perspective on any recent changes. While these conversations are never easy, people outside your relationship with your pet may be able to offer compassionate and helpful insights.
Keep a log.
There are a variety of assessment scales available online to monitor your pet’s mobility, symptoms of pain, and overall well-being. To help gently guide our clients through this difficult process, we at Cardiology Northwest have also created a Quality of Life Journal.
Our cardiac-specific log helps you track your pet’s energy, appetite, and cardiac symptoms. More general assessment scales may also ask you to take into consideration mobility, symptoms of pain, and bladder/bowel control. It is our sincere hope that having a place to collect your thoughts and observations will help bring peace to the decision-making process as you consider the changes your pet may be undergoing. Contact our office if you and your pet could benefit from a Quality of Life Journal.
Consider your own well-being.
As any devoted pet owner knows, it’s easy to prioritize our pet’s care above everything else. However, in considering your pet’s overall quality of life, it is important to factor in your own well-being. Our furry family members are aware of our moods and energy. They share our joys and comfort us when we’re sad. They can be sensitive to our personal ups and downs. When we are exhausted and stressed from the daily strain of caring for a chronically-ill pet, the intimate bond between human and animal can erode.
Many pet owners feel guilty factoring their own well-being into their pets’ overall quality of life. But it’s important to recognize your limits, and the ways ignoring those limits impacts not only you but also your pet.
Ultimately, determining the “right time” to say goodbye is a multi-faceted and deeply personal decision. However, it’s important to remember you’re not alone in this process. Our compassionate team members are here to support you as you navigate your pet’s heart condition and start making important end of life decisions.
As always, if you have any concerns about your pet’s cardiac health or care, please contact our office.