Oct 22 2015

Euthanasia – How to Make That Difficult Decision

Making the decision regarding euthanasia of a beloved companion is the most difficult decision one makes during the course of our pet’s lifetime. Whatever the decision is, it should be one that is looked back upon knowing that the best decision was made.

So how do you know when it is time? Several criteria are often used when evaluating the quality of life of your pet. Dr. Alice Villalobos, a veterinarian who started a quality of life program for terminal patients, published a scoring system that pet owners can use to help assess the quality of life for their beloved pets. The quality of life scale is called the HHHHHMM scale. The letters stand for: Hurt, Hunger, Hydration, Hygiene, Happiness, Mobility and More Good Days than Bad.


Quality of Life Scale: The HHHHHMM Scale


Pet caregivers can use this Quality of Life Scale to determine
the success of pawspice care. Score patients using a scale of 1 to 10.
Score Criterion
1-10 HURT – Adequate pain control, including breathing ability, is first and foremost on the scale. Is the pet’s pain successfully managed? Is oxygen necessary?
1-10 HUNGER – Is the pet eating enough? Does hand feeding help? Does the patient require a feeding tube?
1-10 HYDRATION – Is the patient dehydrated? For patients not drinking enough, use subcutaneous fluids once or twice daily to supplement fluid intake.
1-10 HYGIENE – The patient should be brushed and cleaned, particularly after elimination. Avoid pressure scores and keep all wounds clean.
1-10 HAPPINESS – Does the pet express joy and interest? Is the pet responsive to things around him or her (family, toys, etc.)? Is the pet depressed, lonely, anxious, bored or afraid? Can the pet’s bed be close to the family activities and not be isolated?
1-10 MOBILITY – Can the patient get up without assistance? Does the pet need human or mechanical help (e.g., a cart)? Does the pet feel like going for a walk? Is the pet having seizures or stumbling? (Some caregivers feel euthanasia is preferable to amputation, yet an animal who has limited mobility but is still alert and responsive can have a good quality of life as long as caregivers are committed to helping the pet.)
1-10 MORE GOOD DAYS THAN BAD – When bad days outnumber good days, quality of life might be compromised. When a healthy human-animal bond is no longer possible, the caregiver must be made aware the end is near. The decision needs to be made if the pet is suffering. If death comes peacefully and painlessly, that is okay.
*TOTAL *A total over 35 points represents acceptable life quality

Adapted by Villalobos, A.E., Quality of Life Scale Helps Make Final Call, VPN, 09/2004, for Canine and Feline Geriatric Oncology Honoring the Human-Animal Bond, by Blackwell Publishing, Table 10.1, released 2006.


When considering euthanasia it is always best to discuss your pet’s condition with your veterinarian prior to making the decision. Veterinarians have the experience and knowledge that can help make this difficult decision a little easier. Remember; do not assume that your pet’s condition is untreatable. Sometimes pet owners are unaware that there are other options that can improve their companion’s quality of life and possibly even extend their life span. Use all the medical resources that are available to you to get all the facts and options before making this decision and what better way than to discuss them with your veterinarian. 

If you are needing assistance with making this difficult decision and would like more information about how the procedure is performed, what happens to your pet afterwards, should you be present and the process of grieving, any one of our compassionate healthcare team members will help make this decision a little easier than if you made the decision alone. Please, never hesitate to call or email us with questions or concerns. Our pets are beloved family members and their loss is keenly felt. We are always there to give you support and a shoulder to lean on.


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