If your pet has an untreatable illness, or is suffering the effects of old age, as a loving and responsible carer you’ll probably start to think about pet euthanasia. Quality of life is a phrase you’ll hear a lot, but it’s not always easy to define. There are a couple of quality of life scales for pets which you can use to help you make an objective decision at this emotional time.
The HHHHHMM Scale
Each of the six categories considered is scored on a 0 to 10 scale, with 10 being a perfect score and 0 indicating that, in this category, your pet has no quality of life.
Hurt – Is your pet in pain? How severe is it, how often does it occur and can it be manged with medication?
Hunger – Is your pet able to eat normally and digest their food properly?
Hydration – Is your pet drinking enough, do they appear to be constantly thirsty or need fluids administered?
Hygiene – Is your pet incontinent? Many owners feel guilty about considering this as a reason for pet euthanasia but since dogs and cats, like people prefer not to poop where they sleep you can be sure that incontinence has a severe impact on their quality of life as well as yours.
Happiness – Does you pet still take an interest in life, enjoying companionship and activity, or do they seem anxious, withdrawn and disinterested?
Mobility – Some loss of mobility as your pet ages is normal but if they can’t walk across the room or sit or lie without collapsing things aren’t good.
More good days than bad – As long as the bad days aren’t unbearable for your pet you can continue to enjoy their companionship.
The JOURNEYS Scale
Another quality of life scale for pets. In this case the scale goes from 1 to 10, with 1 being the worst and 10 indicating no problems. JOURNEYS stands for
J – Jumping or mobility
O – Ouch or pain
U – Uncertainly or understanding
R – Respiration and breathing
N – Neatness and hygiene
E – Eating and drinking
Y – You
S– Social ability
There are overlaps in the two scales as they’re measuring the same thing, but also a couple of points that JOURNEYS considers that HHHHMM doesn’t:
U – Understanding what’s happening and knowing what you can do to help makes things a little easier
Y – It’s absolutely valid to consider the practical, physical and emotional effects that caring for your old friend as they move towards the final stages of their life is having on you.
Using Quality of Life Scales
The developers of both scales recommend that you use them on a repeated basis, that could be daily or weekly. Both also suggest that you can ask your vet for his scale rating too. Both also note that a very low score in one area, especially pain could override acceptable scores in other areas.
It’s been suggested that a number below 35 on the HHHHMM scale indicates that it’s time to start thinking about pet euthanasia. The developers of the JOURNEYS scale are less prescriptive, accepting that every pet and every owner is different.
If you’re in the sad position of recognising that the time may be approaching to say goodbye to your pet, using a quality of life scale won’t make the pain any less. The scales are useful tools however, they can enable you to have more confidence in any decisions that you make. Knowing that you’re doing the right thing at the right time does bring peace of mind and offer a degree of comfort.