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Understanding Your Pet’s Quality of Life

4 Minute Read
Dr. Karie Anne Johnson Mobile Vet for VIP Vet Visit
By Dr. Karie Johnson  |  Healthcare  |  Jan 2019

Understanding Your Pet’s Quality of Life

4 Minute Read
Dr. Karie Anne Johnson Mobile Vet for VIP Vet Visit
By Dr. Karie Johnson  |  Healthcare  |  Jan 2019
Dr. Karie Anne Johnson Mobile Vet for VIP Vet Visit

By Dr. Karie Johnson  |  Jan 2019

WHAT DOES QUALITY OF LIFE MEAN?

Quality of life is a very subjective term used in veterinary medicine to discuss euthanasia, natural death and when it is time. It is highly dependent on your individual pet, the disease they have, their symptoms, their personality and your beliefs as a pet parent. Each animal experiences and reacts to their disease process in their own unique way.

Quality of Life discussions are individualized and dependent on how the family and the pet is coping with the terminal illness. This is why it is so important to talk to a veterinarian about your pet’s quality of life before any potentially life threatening symptoms begin to appear. You will want to decide what path you want to walk down before those decisions must be made.

PAIN AND SUFFERING

What is pain? Pain is physical or mental suffering or discomfort caused by an illness or injury. What is suffering? Suffering is the state of undergoing pain, distress or hardship.

As a veterinarian, I made an oath to prevent and relieve animal suffering. We don’t want our beloved pets to suffer from their disease, and unlike many humans, they don’t have to. The main goal of euthanasia is to prevent suffering from ever occurring in the first place. I would never want any pet of my own or of my clients to endure a disease to the point of not being physically or mentally capable of doing anything other than feeling their pain.

HAPPINESS

I want your pet to be as happy as possible for as long as possible. Quality of life goes away when they no longer do the things that they love. Your dog loves their tennis ball, but they can no longer play fetch.

A poor quality of life can also be seen when your pet stops doing the things they hate. They hate when the doorbell rings and usually run and bark at the door, but today they didn’t even react to it. These are indicators of a decreased quality of life, especially when your pet stops reacting to things they used to hate. I know plenty of pets that have been euthanized still holding their favorite toy in their mouth. Each situation and each pet is so unique.

Many pet parents say once their pet stops eating is when they will make the decision to euthanize. However some animals won’t stop eating until the last moment of their life. Based on your pet’s disease process and personality, eating is not always a great indicator of quality of life. Many animals, especially breeds known for eating (like Labradors and Beagles), will eat even though they are in incredible amounts of pain. This makes it so important to understand your pet’s specific disease process and what to look for as indications of pain.

UNDERSTANDING THE DISEASE PROCESS

In these discussions, it is incredibly important for you as a pet parent to understand the disease process your pet is experiencing in order to evaluate their quality of life appropriately. Understanding their disease will help you create a plan and recognize what stage they are at in the disease timeline.

These discussions can help you notice slight changes in pain, anxiety and behavior, allowing you to see what is normal or abnormal, what is similar or different, and what is age related and what is disease related. You know your pet better than anyone, and you understand their wants and needs best. Quality of Life discussions will help you see how their disease has changed their life, so you can determine the best course of action.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES AND HELP

I understand the difficulty of quality of life discussions. This is a hard topic during an emotional time, which is why I created the Quality of Life Calculator as an online tool for pet parents around the world. It is an objective exercise that can be used to determine your pet’s true quality of life and whether it is time to start considering hospice care or euthanasia. If you still feel confused or overwhelmed in any way, I also offer one-on-one Quality of Life consultations in-person or over the phone that you can schedule online.

Dr. Karie Anne Johnson Mobile Vet for VIP Vet Visit

Author: Dr. Karie Johnson, Co-Founder of VIP Vet Visit

Dr Karie is a companion animal & equine veterinarian in the Chicagoland area. Her desire to strengthen the human-animal bond while providing enhanced preventative care led her to start VIP Vet Visit – an at-home veterinary care option that provides less stress, more convenience and better care. 

WHAT DOES QUALITY OF LIFE MEAN?

Quality of life is a very subjective term used in veterinary medicine to discuss euthanasia, natural death and when it is time. It is highly dependent on your individual pet, the disease they have, their symptoms, their personality and your beliefs as a pet parent. Each animal experiences and reacts to their disease process in their own unique way.

Quality of Life discussions are individualized and dependent on how the family and the pet is coping with the terminal illness. This is why it is so important to talk to a veterinarian about your pet’s quality of life before any potentially life threatening symptoms begin to appear. You will want to decide what path you want to walk down before those decisions must be made.

PAIN AND SUFFERING

What is pain? Pain is physical or mental suffering or discomfort caused by an illness or injury. What is suffering? Suffering is the state of undergoing pain, distress or hardship.

As a veterinarian, I made an oath to prevent and relieve animal suffering. We don’t want our beloved pets to suffer from their disease, and unlike many humans, they don’t have to. The main goal of euthanasia is to prevent suffering from ever occurring in the first place. I would never want any pet of my own or of my clients to endure a disease to the point of not being physically or mentally capable of doing anything other than feeling their pain.

HAPPINESS

I want your pet to be as happy as possible for as long as possible. Quality of life goes away when they no longer do the things that they love. Your dog loves their tennis ball, but they can no longer play fetch.

A poor quality of life can also be seen when your pet stops doing the things they hate. They hate when the doorbell rings and usually run and bark at the door, but today they didn’t even react to it. These are indicators of a decreased quality of life, especially when your pet stops reacting to things they used to hate. I know plenty of pets that have been euthanized still holding their favorite toy in their mouth. Each situation and each pet is so unique.

Many pet parents say once their pet stops eating is when they will make the decision to euthanize. However some animals won’t stop eating until the last moment of their life. Based on your pet’s disease process and personality, eating is not always a great indicator of quality of life. Many animals, especially breeds known for eating (like Labradors and Beagles), will eat even though they are in incredible amounts of pain. This makes it so important to understand your pet’s specific disease process and what to look for as indications of pain.

UNDERSTANDING THE DISEASE PROCESS

In these discussions, it is incredibly important for you as a pet parent to understand the disease process your pet is experiencing in order to evaluate their quality of life appropriately. Understanding their disease will help you create a plan and recognize what stage they are at in the disease timeline.

These discussions can help you notice slight changes in pain, anxiety and behavior, allowing you to see what is normal or abnormal, what is similar or different, and what is age related and what is disease related. You know your pet better than anyone, and you understand their wants and needs best. Quality of Life discussions will help you see how their disease has changed their life, so you can determine the best course of action.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES AND HELP

I understand the difficulty of quality of life discussions. This is a hard topic during an emotional time, which is why I created the Quality of Life Calculator as an online tool for pet parents around the world. It is an objective exercise that can be used to determine your pet’s true quality of life and whether it is time to start considering hospice care or euthanasia. If you still feel confused or overwhelmed in any way, I also offer one-on-one Quality of Life consultations in-person or over the phone that you can schedule online.

Dr. Karie Anne Johnson Mobile Vet for VIP Vet Visit

Author: Dr. Karie Johnson, Co-Founder of VIP Vet Visit

Dr Karie is a companion animal & equine veterinarian in the Chicagoland area. Her desire to strengthen the human-animal bond while providing enhanced preventative care led her to start VIP Vet Visit – an at-home veterinary care option that provides less stress, more convenience and better care. 

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