How to Determine a Dog's Quality of Life
Assessing Quality of Life in Dogs
Owners who are questioning when a dog should be put down, will often hear veterinarians discuss about quality of life. Quality of life is all about making the pet as much as possible comfortable. Owners and veterinarians therefore can assess together how the quality of life of a dog can be increased, courtesy of medications and lots of tender loving care. When the chances of a good quality of life are poor, often euthanasia is considered.
Euthanasia comes from the Greek language which means ''good death''. A good death is therefore, something to be considered when a a dog's life appears to become too distressing and intolerable. This humane and peaceful procedure is therefore the best option in this scenario.
While a veterinarian may give some opinions of when a dog should be euthanized, it really ultimately comes down to the owner to make such decision. Only owners know their dogs best and therefore only they can make this informed decision. Veterinarians and veterinarian staff may direct towards one option or another, but it ultimately really is the dog owner's decision. Yet, this remains the most difficult decision a dog owner may have to face.
A Helpful Scale for Dog Owners in Need
The most common feelings affecting dog owners considering euthanasia is fear, insecurity anger and guilt. Fear takes place because it is humane to fear the loss of loved ones, indeed, the death of a dog is one of the most distressing situations owners may face. Insecurity takes place because dogs, having been spared from the capacity of talking, must rely on dog owners to be their main decision makers. And guilt, perhaps because in a corner of a mind of every dog owner there is always space for hope that the dog will miraculously get better.
To help owners out, many veterinarains have a quality of life scale, so dog owners can rationally assess their dog's personal situation. This scale can help dog owners make decisions or at least open up a discussion with their vet to see if more can be done.
Help for Incontinent Dogs
An Example of a Quality of Life Scale
Is your dog in obvious pain? Has he been benefiting from pain relievers? Does she have trouble breathing? Pain is one of the main considerations when assessing the quality of life of an animal. While there are many effective pain relievers, at times, they may not be sufficient, or the side effects may outweigh the benefits.
Eating is essential for life and dogs that have lost appetite need to receive nutrition. How well is your dog eating? Does he need to be force fed? Can he eat on his own? There are some medications that may increase appetite and some foods made for dogs that need extra nutrition (Hill's A/D, Nutrical) In severe cases, a stomach tube may be inserted.
A dog needs water more than food, so adequate hydration is crucial. Is your dog drinking enough? If you lift up the skin over the shoulders in a tent, does it spring back quickly or does it take time or worse remain lifted? Fluids injected under the skin may help be a great way to supplement water. Some dog owners may learn how to give fluids at home.
Is your dog's coat dull and smelly? Is the coat matted? Is your dog's mobility affected so much that he lies on its waste after elimination? Can your dog control its bladder and bowel functions? A lack of hygiene is often seen in sick, debilitated pets and this can significantly affect quality of life.
-Joy of Life
How happy is your dog? Does he still walk? Does she still enjoy time with you? Is he still interacting with your family? Look for signs of joy and general happiness related with enjoying life.Dogs that appear depressed, lonely, anxious or fearful may be in pain or have started to give up on life.
Dogs rely on their legs a lot. Unlike humans, dog cannot live using a wheelchair or a cane. In nature, dogs that have loss their mobility eventually die. Questions to ask are: ''How much can my dog get around? Is his mobility affected by seizures or other nervous system disorders? Can she get up to relieve herself? Dogs that have painful joints may be helped out with medications. A sling, harness or cart may be helpful in some circumstances.
-Being Bright and Alert
One of the most common things veterinarians look at when they assess the level of health in an animal is how bright and alert the animal is to its surrounding. Indeed, a dog that is withdrawn and lethargic is not a dog feeling well. Signs of brightness and alertness includes response to noises, lifting up the head, ear movements, tail wags etc.
This is one of the most important considerations to keep in mind. Is my dog having more good days than bad? Marking on a calendar how your dog feels each day may be helpful. A bad day of course is characterized by the dog suffering, either from lethargy, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting or simply pain. Good days are when your dog responds to you, is alert and active, demonstrating a general willingness to enjoy life.
This is just an example of a typical quality of life scale. One of the first most interesting and and thorough scales was crafted by Dr. Villalobos a veterinarian in order to help dog owners and veterinarians to come to a decision or at least a discussion and thoughts. HHHHHMM stands for Hurt, Hunger, Hydration, Hygiene, Mobility and 'More Good Days than Bad''. To see the actual and original scale with points assigned visit this Link.
In the midst of several uncertainities, there are not many things in life as certain as death. And when our beloved dog's time comes close, as much as we would want to post pone death and keep our loyal friend with us, it is unfortunate than eventually, that dreaded time will come. With quality of life in mind, most owners can make the best decision for their dogs.
For Dogs In Need of Nutritional Support
For further reading
- Pet Gems: An alternative to Cremation and Burial of Pets
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