Pets are important family members, and we wish they could be around for ever. It’s inevitable that our pets will age and grow old – and often illness and injury intervene. One of the most common questions I get asked for advice on, is about how to know when it’s the right time to make end of life decisions for our pets.
As a veterinarian, I’m well placed to be able to advise you about the health of your pet, plus it’s an important part of my role to support you through any decision-making regarding end of life care. When we are emotionally invested in our pets, as we should be, it can make it difficult to know the best path forward, or what our options may be. If you are trying to assess your pet’s quality of life, I’d encourage you to book in to see me at the vet hospital, or organise for a veterinary house visit where I can examine your pet and discuss their care in the comfort of your own home.
My advice around determining a pet’s quality of life will be influenced by a range of factors, and usually I’m assessing trends over time, combined with a physical examination and any diagnostic tests. To help with decision making, it can be useful to keep a close eye on your pet’s behaviour and habits – you might be able to observe changes over time. Another good idea is keeping a diary noting any fluctuations in their activities. Our memories are notoriously unreliable!
I’m interested to know about their daily routine: their appetite, drinking, toileting, mobility and whether they are displaying their characteristic demeanour or traits. On a practical level these activities imply a level of alertness, whether animals are in pain or not, and that body systems are functioning correctly. Any changes can be significant, so keeping a note of any changes to these factors will be useful. An indication of a deterioration in quality of life, may be if pets become unsettled, display unusual behaviours or vocalisations, or have difficulty rising, eating, toileting or moving.
On top of these basic life activities, as a vet I’ll be able to assess and evaluate the impact of any medical conditions, and whether these are stable or deteriorating. It’s important to ask as many questions as you need to, I’m happy to provide advice and recommendations. Depending on the outcome of my consultation and assessment, our options may include continued close monitoring of the pet at home, the addition of any necessary medications or other treatments to manage medical conditions, or considering planning for euthanasia – a decision based on taking into account the pet’s welfare and overall quality of life.
I wrote another post recently about euthanasia for pets, and if this is the option we are considering, I’ll be able to guide you through this process to ensure a comfortable passing for your pet. As you and your family are most familiar with your pet, keeping an eye on their behaviour and condition will enable you to detect changes which are out of character. So if you notice changes that worry you, book in for a home-visit consultation today. This will allow me to discuss any concerns you may have, examine the animal and be there with you to discuss any important decisions around treatment or end of life care. 0434 743 744 (Call or text).