4 Tips to Assess Your Pet’s Quality of Life

If your pet is affected by a debilitating illness, you want to ensure they remain as comfortable and happy as possible. Assessing their quality of life (QOL) is important to evaluate their overall wellbeing so you can change their management if necessary. These evaluations are also critical to determine when continued treatment is no longer in your pet’s best interest. Our Animal Hospital of Parkland team explains how to assess your pet’s QOL.

#1: Know what conditions can affect your pet’s quality of life

Senior pets are at higher risk for several health conditions that can negatively affect their QOL, including:

  • Cancer — Cancer is the most frequent cause of death in pets over middle age, and these conditions can significantly decrease a pet’s QOL.
  • Cataracts — Cataracts can develop gradually or quickly, inhibiting your pet’s ability to see, and vision loss can cause some pets extreme fear and anxiety.
  • Chronic kidney disease (CKD) — CKD inhibits the body’s ability to filter biological waste from the blood, causing the affected pet to feel ill and nauseated. 
  • Obesity — More than 50% of pets are overweight or obese, significantly affecting their ability to move and breathe.
  • Arthritis — Many senior pets have arthritic joints, causing pain and decreased mobility.

#2: Know how to evaluate your pet’s quality of life

A QOL scale is a good tool to help objectively evaluate your pet’s quality of life. A commonly used scale was developed by a veterinary oncologist to help pet owners determine if their pet’s QOL was acceptable. The HHHHHMM scale assesses seven basic criteria to help evaluate a pet’s happiness, comfort, and overall wellbeing. The scale’s scoring system uses 0 to indicate extremely bad and 10 to indicate normal. Each criterion is scored and added together, and a total score above 35 indicates a pet’s QOL is acceptable for continued treatment. The HHHHHMM acronym stands for:

  • Hurt — Adequate pain control and the ability to breathe well are top concerns. Does your pet need pain medication, and, if so, is their pain properly controlled? Does your pet need supplemental oxygen? 
  • Hunger — A pet’s QOL declines rapidly if they can’t maintain adequate nutrition. Does your pet eat enough to maintain their body weight? Does hand feeding encourage your pet to eat more? Does your pet need a feeding tube?
  • Hydration — Dehydration can cause and exacerbate many significant health problems. Does your pet drink enough to remain hydrated? Are you able to administer subcutaneous fluids to your pet if necessary?
  • Hygiene — Sick pets frequently soil themselves, and you must be able to keep your pet clean and dry to avoid bed sores and infection. Are you able to monitor your pet frequently to ensure they remain clean? Are you able to clean any wounds to prevent infection?
  • Happiness — A pet’s QOL also includes their mental health. Does your pet express joy and interest? Does your pet interact with your family and respond when you show them their favorite toy? Does your pet seem depressed, anxious, or afraid?
  • Mobility — Mobility issues can negatively affect your pet’s QOL. Are you able to assist your pet if they need help going to the bathroom? Are you able to change your pet’s position regularly to help prevent bed sores? Can your pet benefit from a lifting harness or wheel cart?
  • More good days than bad — When your pet’s bad days start outnumbering their good, you should consult your veterinary team to determine if your pet’s QOL is too compromised to continue treatment.

The QOL scale allows pet owners to objectively assess their pet’s QOL so changes can be made in their management as needed to provide palliative care.

#3: Use the pet quality of life scale properly

Use the QOL properly to get the most benefit out of the tool. Tips include:

  • Using the scale regularly — Depending on your pet’s condition, you may need to work through the scale once a month or once a day. As your pet’s health declines, you should assess their QOL more frequently.
  • Keeping a journal — Record your assessment when you use the QOL scale so you can track your pet’s progress.
  • Consulting your veterinarian — Your veterinary team is here to support you as you care for your ailing pet. Contact them any time you have questions about your pet’s condition.
  • Using a calendar — When your pet’s condition requires daily QOL assessments, mark your calendar using a smiley face for good days and a frowny face for bad days so you can easily visualize their status.
  • Involving your friends and family — Ask a family member or close friend for clarity to provide a more objective opinion about your pet’s condition.

#4: Assess your quality of life

Your QOL is also important when caring for an ailing pet. Caretaker fatigue is a real problem, and you need to consider your needs as well as your pet’s. You can’t care for your pet in the proper way if you are too overwhelmed or stressed. Questions to consider include:

  • Do I have the time and ability to care for my pet?
  • Do I have the financial resources to care for my pet?
  • Will caring for my pet prevent me from fulfilling my other obligations?
  • Do I have family members or friends who can help?

Caring for an ailing pet is difficult, but assessing their QOL can help ensure they remain happy and comfortable for as long as possible. If you are concerned about your pet’s QOL, contact our Animal Hospital of Parkland team so we can provide support through this difficult time.

By |2024-02-14T23:51:14+00:00February 1st, 2023|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!

About the Author:

Leave A Comment

Go to Top