Pets add so much joy and love to our lives that watching them age can be difficult. Their graying muzzle, stiff gait, and slower pace remind us they won’t always be around, which can be a painful thought. If you look at your senior pet and you start down a rabbit hole of dread and sadness, take a deep breath, and embrace a new mindset about aging pets. By the time your pet is a senior, you know each other inside and out, and your bond is the strongest, so rather than lamenting future loss, remain present in the moment, and commit to ensuring your senior pet is comfortable, happy, and pain-free for the rest of your days together. A quality of life (QOL) assessment is a useful tool for evaluating your pet’s physical and emotional wellbeing. Our Madison Street Animal Hospital team explains how you can assess your senior pet’s QOL and prevent pain and suffering.
Why assess my pet’s quality of life?
You want the best for your pet throughout their life, but objectively assessing their QOL as they age can be difficult. Signs that your pet is suffering can appear gradually, making them harder to identify, and some of us subconsciously ignore potential red flags because we aren’t ready to accept the inevitable loss. Pet QOL assessments provide a framework of multiple evaluation categories to provide the big picture of your pet’s health.
When should I assess my pet’s quality of life?
The short answer to this question? From day one. Whether or not you realize, you’ve been assessing your pet’s wellbeing from the day you brought them home. For example, if your pet had an obvious limp, you knew they were injured, and took steps to relieve their pain. Assessing a young, healthy pet’s QOL is usually simple, because signs they are suffering are so obvious. However, because your aging pet will decline slowly, their signs can be harder to catch, which makes regular QOL assessment so important. The assessment will give you a clear understanding of health changes and help you make difficult end-of-life decisions when necessary.
How can I assess my pet’s quality of life?
A variety of QOL assessments are available to pet owners, and while their wording can differ slightly, they all enable you to evaluate the important factors that impact your pet’s QOL. These factors include:
- Pain — Pets often show pain in subtle ways. Look for the following changes in your pet’s behavior that may indicate they are hurting:
- Avoiding slippery floor surfaces
- Difficulty getting up or slow to stand from a resting position
- Difficulty easing into a sitting or lying position
- Limping or lameness
- Lying down while eating or drinking
- Reluctance or inability to jump on furniture or into a car
- Reluctance to go up or down stairs
- Appetite — Appetite should not be the only consideration when evaluating your pet’s wellbeing, but appetite, or lack thereof, can reveal important clues. Can your pet eat on their own? If your pet is not receiving adequate nutrition, by hand or force-feeding, they may require a feeding tube. When your pet loses all interest in food or is too painful to eat, they are not receiving adequate nutrition and their QOL will suffer.
- Mobility — Pets normally slow down as they age, but if your pet cannot move independently, you may want to consider a mobility device, such as a sling, body harness, or cart to help them stay active. Mobility impacts every pet’s QOL differently—for example, a pet who loves to play ball but can no longer get up will be more affected than a small lap dog who wants only to lie in their owner’s lap.
- Enjoyment — You know your pet better than anyone, including the activities they enjoy most. Is your pet still interested in their favorite people, places, and things? Do they still enjoy playing with toys, going for walks, and being petted, or do they appear more withdrawn and reserved? Are they bright-eyed and attentive, or have they become dull and no longer pay any attention to their surroundings and routine interactions? If your pet no longer enjoys daily life, their QOL is low.
Your senior pet’s health and wellbeing mean the world to you—and to us. Regular QOL assessments can help you ensure that your pet is comfortable and content throughout their senior years. Contact our team at Madison Street Animal Hospital if you have questions or concerns, or would like to discuss your aging pet’s quality of life.
Leave A Comment