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How to know if it's time to let go...

How can you tell if it is time to let your furry friend go to the Rainbow bridge? This is one of the most difficult and heart-wrenching decisions that all pet owners must face. My standard answer is when there is no good quality of life or when the pet is suffering.

The question then morphs into: how can you objectively determine if your pet has enough good life in them?

First, let’s define how a healthy pet should be; alert, moving on its own power, eating and drinking normally, keeping itself groomed, and interacting with others in a normal way. These life activities are given a score of 1-100. Quality of life also takes into account the pain that your furry companion is experiencing so a normal pet should be free of pain. The pain score is then multiplied by 2 because animals hide pain so well that when they actually show it, their quality of life is heavily compromised. Total the numbers for the life activities and subtract the pain totals and you’ll get a quality of life score(QOLS). This QOLS can help your veterinarian to recommend euthanasia or further treatments. It also helps you, the pet owner, to monitor if any lifestyle changes like food changes, supplements or complementary therapies are actually helping your pet feel and act better.

A dog or cat with a QOLS of > 500 is definitively living an excellent life and all efforts should be directed to help overcome the illness they are facing. A QOLS of 400-500 is considered good, 300-400 is moderate and 100-300 is poor. A QOLS of <100 is a sure way to determine euthanasia, which would end their suffering in a humane way.

For very geriatric pets aging can be really difficult to see, there are several ways we can improve the mental acuity and even the activity level of your senior pet. In seniors, the senses are diminishing and although most pets adjust to these changes, some do not. We can help our deaf and poor vision seniors by keeping the furniture and environment constant, avoiding any changes or added stress to their routine. The mental acuity can be improved by adding kelp, vitamin E and omega fatty acids supplements to their diet.

Their activity level is sometimes hindered by their inability to grasp their flooring substrate with their nails. An easy solution is to keep those nails trimmed. If you have tile or wood floors, provide walkways with rugs, so your senior dog can walk confidently. A very easy way to help seniors stand up more smoothly is to put “toe grips” on their nails. These little rubber rings at the base of their nails provide much-needed friction and help them get up and walk straighter. Other medical modalities like acupuncture, massage therapy, food therapy, and laser treatments can change the QOLS for the better. Seek your veterinarian’s advice and use the QOLS to determine what is the best course of action when it comes to your aged or sick companion.

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