Quality of Life

By now, most people are familiar with the term “Quality of Life”, and may have heard it applied to animals. The challenge is knowing how to measure/assess quality of life (QOL) for our pets. Some factors seem obvious; pain, vomiting or complete loss of mobility are clear signs that our pets are no longer enjoying life. In most cases, however, the changes are more subtle and the assessments more difficult.

  • Just because our old cat sleeps allot, does that mean she is not enjoying her days?
  • Can my Frisbee chasing border collie still be happy now that he can’t jump?
  • Is it crazy to consider a cart for my paralyzed dachshund? How can a dog that can’t walk possibly have a good quality of life?

The exact parameters for what defines a happy or quality life varies from pet to pet and from family to family. Even so, several useful tools are available to help us work through this process.

Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice has developed a Pet Quality of Life Scale that asks owner to assess the pet’s ability to enjoy “favorite things”, as well as more obvious categories such as pain and appetite.
Click to view ~ Pet Quality of Life Scale

Dr Angela Villalobos with Pawspice developed the The HHHHHMM Scale. This more extensive evaluation also asks owners to rate their pets in a variety of categories, such as Help, Hurt, Hydration, etc.
Click to view ~ Extensive Quality of Life Scale

Dr. Thorpe encourages families to start thinking about their pet’s quality of life as they age; before serious or debilitating disease ensues. Quality of life assessments are helpful not only when considering euthanasia. They can help us recognize when medical assessments or adjustments to the home environment are needed to make life easier for our beloved companions.