Consider the following factors to help you assess your pet’s quality of life:
1. Understand the disease
Different diseases have different outcomes. E.g. a dog with a debilitating disease such as severe arthritis can have a severely compromised quality of life but will not die from the disease. In contrast, a pet with a terminal illness will eventually die from the disease if we don’t intervene.
Understanding your pet’s disease(s) helps you know what to expect & look out for and decide when we should intervene. If you have any unanswered questions about your pet’s condition, please discuss this with one of our vets.
2. Monitor your pet’s activities
There is no single factor that can determine whether a pet is suffering or has a poor quality of life but it helps to monitor the following:
Appetite: A reduction in appetite can be an indicator of deterioration in some animals but not all as some pets will continue eating despite significant discomfort.
Normal activity: A reduction in normal activity (e.g. not wanting to go for walks) can be an indicator of reduced quality of life in some pets.
Pain: Pain can be challenging to assess as animals don’t often show obvious signs. Restlessness at night can be an indicator in some animals. Knowing what diseases are present can help us predict pain so please come and talk to us if you think your pet may be experiencing pain.
General demeanour: Some pets may appear depressed or distressed, while others remain happy and cheerful.
3. How well is your pet coping?
Your pet’s personality is unique and it influences how well he or she copes with disease, medications, vet visits & other interventions. You the owner are in the best position to assess this aspect of your pet’s quality of life.
4. How well are you and your family coping?
Looking after an ageing or ill pet can lead to emotional, physical and financial stress on you and your family. Caregiver fatigue is a condition of exhaustion that results from unrelieved caring for a chronically ill pet. Feelings of guilt can cloud your judgement in this situation. It is important to look after yourself and your family and to acknowledge and identify your personal limits.
Palliative care provides your pet with relief from pain as well as mental and physical stress. It is an important part of end of life care and should be discussed with your vet.
Euthanasia is a humane way of ending life to relieve suffering & pain. It is quick, painless & similar to going to sleep for an anaesthetic. It is the most common way for our pets to finish their lives. Euthanasia can be done peacefully & on your terms to give your pet the best farewell possible.
Euthanasia can bring about feelings of guilt for many people but it helps to think of euthanasia as a gift that you give your pet to end or prevent their distress or suffering. You should never feel guilty for choosing this option as it actually requires bravery & selflessness.
You have several options for your pet’s body:
Grieving is a completely normal process and affects everyone differently. It often begins before your pet has even passed away. The 5 stages of grieving are:
Stage 1: Denial & isolation
Denial is a defence mechanism to help us deal with the immediate shock and rush of overwhelming emotion & pain. You may hide from the facts or think “this can’t be happening”. You may feel numb or overwhelmed.
Stage 2: Anger
As the masking effects of denial wears off, painful feelings re-emerge & are deflected away from ourselves towards the outside. Anger may be aimed at inanimate objects, family, friends or even your vet.
Stage 3: Bargaining
During this stage, you dwell on what you could have done to prevent the loss. It stems from a need to regain control through a series of “If only” or “what if” statements.
Stage 4: Depression
Sadness sets in as you begin to accept the loss. Signs of depression include crying, sleep issues & decreased appetite. You may feel lonely, regretful & empty.
Stage 5: Acceptance
In this final stage of grief, you accept the reality of your loss and although you still feel sad, you make peace & learn to live with it.
As animal lovers, our team of vets, vet nurses & customer services understand how difficult saying goodbye to a pet can be. Most of us have experienced loss of our own pet at some point in our lives. Our goal is to help you through this time by being empathetic, patient & kind to you and your pet. Please do not hesitate to talk to us about your questions, concerns or feelings.