Quality of Life Assessment for Pets: When to Let Go

One of the tragedies of owning pets is that they never outlive us. Indeed, there are so many exciting, wonderful, and fun times to be had with our pets, and it’s our continuing goal to help you keep them as healthy and happy for a lifetime. But when their life is winding down, how do you know when it’s time to let them go?

This can be one of the most difficult and even agonizing decisions we face as pet owners. However, there are some excellent assessment tools for evaluating your pet’s quality of life that can help you to make a decision that is the kindest to them as well as peaceful for you. When you’re ready to discuss these difficult conversations, let us know. Harpeth Hills Animal Hospital is here for you.

Quality of Life

Quality of life is a way to discuss the everyday life and daily needs of a pet reaching the end of her life. If we can meet her basic needs, then we can feel confident that preserving her life is the right thing to do.

But is there an objective way to measure this? Luckily a prominent oncologist, Dr. Alice Villalobos, developed an assessment tool that pet owners and veterinarians can use to measure their pet’s comfort at the end of their life. We can then work together to fine tune your pet’s care plan.

Dr. Villalobos’s assessment tool looks at seven different measurements and scores each parameter on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best. An overall score of over 35 as well as a score above 5 in each category means that the pet’s quality of life is acceptable and that it’s reasonable to continue end of life care and support.

Quality of Life Assessment Tool

The categories in the assessment tool as developed by Dr. Villalobos are “HHHHHMM” and stand for:

  • H Hurt adequate pain control is a necessity.
  • H Hunger whether or not the pet can eat willingly.
  • H Hydration keeping an older pet hydrated is important to helping them feel better.
  • H Hygiene can a pet stay clean, dry, and well groomed?
  • H Happiness is the pet experiencing mental stimulation and joy?
  • M Mobility can a pet move around, or do they need assistance?
  • M More good days (than bad) when there are many bad days in a row, it may be that quality of life is compromised.

You can help your dog maintain a good day-to-day life by using this scale to regularly evaluate the parameters and whether their basic needs are being met. The scale can also objectively help you clarify the need for euthanasia, hopefully relieving anxiety and regret about the end of your beloved pet’s life.
Remember that we are here as a resource and guide at this difficult time, and so if you need support or have questions as your pet approaches the end of their life, please give us a call.