Understanding Your Pet's Quality of Life Score: Insights from Pet Parents Like You
No two pet journeys are the same, to help you better contextualize your Quality of Life results, we’ve summarized key insights and themes from responses to our Quality of Life questionnaire from across the CodaPet community.
July 24, 2023
No question is more difficult for a pet parent than "is it time to say goodbye?" We don’t want to say goodbye too soon and miss a moment with our beloved companions; we don’t want to say goodbye too late or let them suffer. As one pet parent put it: “I love her, but I don't want to be selfish [and] keep her with me if she's in pain. I need to find the strength to do the right thing.”
The Quality of Life Questionnaire can be a useful resource to evaluate your pet’s well-being and monitor changes over time. No two pet journeys are the same, but to help you better contextualize your Quality of Life results, we’ve summarized key insights and themes from Quality of Life responses across the entire CodaPet community. We hope these insights, along with guidance from your licensed veterinarian and conversations with the friends and family that know your pet best, help you feel more confident in the best course of action for your beloved pet.
Quality of Life Questionnaire Outcomes
Amongst the CodaPet community, approximately one in seven respondents, accounting for about 14% of participants, received a total score of 30 or higher, indicating an overall "acceptable" quality of life for their pets. Around 45% of respondents fell within the range of 20 to 30, representing a "questionable-to-acceptable" quality of life. Approximately 40% of respondents received a score of 20 or lower, suggesting a "poor-to-questionable" quality of life for their pets.
Across these three groups, there are important differences in how a pet’s quality of life changes over time. Namely, the vast majority of respondents receiving a “poor-to-questionable” quality of life score report a decline in their pet’s emotional comfort, while shifts in the pet’s basic needs are less uniform, and degradation in physical comfort appears to be less common (although debilitating when it does occur).
Key Themes in Pet Quality of Life Assessment
Emotional Comfort: Happiness, Anxiety, and More Good Days Than Bad
Emotional comfort emerges as a crucial factor among the CodaPet community in determining a pet's overall quality of life. Unlike changes in Basic Needs and Physical Comfort, which are not uniform, the data highlights a fairly consistent shift from the "acceptable" category to the "poor-to-questionable" category when emotional comfort deteriorates:
Testimonials from pet parents emphasize the impact of emotional well-being, wherein signs of happiness, good days, and reduced anxiety play vital roles in assessing a pet's quality of life.
One pet parent who reported an “acceptable” Quality of Life score shared her personal anxiety around how her dog’s engagement with her might shift over time: “In the past, I have regretted waiting 'too long.' I don't want my beloved dog to suffer. [I’m] trying to pay close attention to my dog's comfort level and engagement with me and his environment. It's such a fine line and tough decision."
A pet parent grappling with a "poor-to-questionable" rating reflected on her pet's condition, saying, "She does not interact with family anymore. [She] does not bark at all. [She is] often confused and bumping into everything."
While an important consideration, emotional comfort is only one piece of the picture when assessing quality of life. Next we will look at responses regarding a pet’s basic needs.
Basic Needs: Hunger, Hydration, Breathing, and Hygiene
Assessing a pet's basic needs, including hunger, hydration, hygiene, and breathing, is pivotal in determining their overall quality of life. However, Quality of Life responses from the CodaPet community indicate a wide range of outcomes among these facets, with a more even distribution of “poor-to-questionable” respondents falling across the higher and lowest scores in “basic needs” categories:
Ensuring proper management of these fundamental requirements is essential. Pet parents should pay close attention to hunger, hydration, hygiene, and breathing as important aspects of their pet's well-being.
One pet parent in the "acceptable" category shares their perspective on the importance of this category of needs as a barometer for overall quality of life: "My elder 14-year-old Lab is declining but still seems to enjoy life, so I'm not ready to make the hard decision yet. When he loses his appetite, I'll know it's time."
A pet parent who reported a score commensurate with a “poor-to-questionable” quality of life expressed concern, saying, "[My pet] will not eat [or drink] water when given to her. [She is] hard panting [and] will not move unless coaxed."
Lastly, we will move from basic needs to the examination of physical comfort in quality of life responses.
Physical Comfort: Hurt, Mobility, and Seizures
Optimizing physical comfort significantly contributes to a pet's overall quality of life. However, responses from the CodaPet community indicate that the degradation of physical comfort appears to be a less common factor in contributing to a pet’s overall quality of life decline, with about half (48%) of pet parents reporting a “poor-to-questionable” total quality of life also reporting a high quality of physical comfort:
While it may be less common to see physical discomfort, it remains an important consideration. Managing pain, addressing mobility issues, and managing seizures are key aspects that impact a pet's physical well-being. When degradation of physical comfort does occur, it can be quite impactful: "[My] 12-year-old dog is having a hard time standing and goes into the corner a lot. Back legs are giving out daily, and it breaks my heart to see the daily decline. He can't hold himself up to eat or drink water."
It is possible that physical discomfort is less commonly reported because pet parents feel more equipped to combat it where it is found. Prescription pain and anti-seizure medications, anti-slip mats or toe grips, joint support and more, can help pet parents address their pet’s quality of life in a tangible way, giving a sense of control.
No Two Pet Journeys are the Same
In navigating the sensitive topic of a pet's quality of life, the insights garnered from CodaPet's Quality of Life Questionnaire can provide valuable guidance.
While no two pet loss journeys are the same, key themes emerge from the responses within the CodaPet community: Decline in emotional comfort appears to be a common trend, highlighting the importance of attending to a pet's emotional well-being. Discomfort around "Basic Needs" like hunger, hydration, hygiene, and breathing is more mixed, underscoring the significance of individual circumstances. Additionally, while physical discomfort may be less commonly reported, it still warrants attention to ensure a pet's optimal well-being.
Remember, when assessing your pet's quality of life, it is essential to consult a licensed veterinarian who can offer personalized advice and guidance based on your pet's unique circumstances, including whether in-home euthanasia for your dog, cat, or beloved companion animal is a path to consider. As one pet parent advised at the end of their questionnaire:
“Listen to your vet who knows your pet's illness and generally how this will make them feel, but remember it is you that sees your pet daily for the whole day (and night) and will see the changes they go through from what they used to be like. Ultimately, you know your pet better than anyone, and whatever decision you make throughout your pet's illness…will be the right one. Don't later analyze your decisions with a "fine toothed comb"... No regrets, no later guilt, but peace in knowing you did your very best right up to the end. Then, if not too odd a thing to say: smile & remember the thousands of 'stories' they left you with. That's their legacy.”
We couldn’t agree more. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when a pet begins to decline but it’s so important to cherish the moments with your beloved companion as you prioritize their well-being throughout their journey.
Visit our other articles to learn more about navigating anticipatory grief, what to expect from pet euthanasia and answer questions such as how much does it cost to put a pet to sleep and how will I know it's time.
Dr. Karen Whala has always had a soft spot for the older pets she’s treated in practice and saw a need for these beloved pets to pass peacefully at home rather than in a clinic setting. To that end, she started Peaceful Passing in 2018 to help families assist their terminally ill, injured, or suffering pets as they transitioned from life in the Fresno and Clovis areas. She finds that pets are so much more relaxed and peaceful when they pass at home, and it is truly a gift owners give their furry friends. Dr. Whala grew up in the Eastern foothills of Fresno County in the small towns of Dunlap and Miramonte. She obtained her Bachelors of Science degree in Animal Science and Management at UC Davis. During her youth, she operated a children’s petting zoo and traveled to schools, birthday parties, and library functions educating children on animal care. Her animals included everything from iguanas and ducklings to lambs and frogs, and it was during these formative pet-owning years that she decided to become a veterinarian. In 2006, Dr. Whala graduated with her veterinary degree from UC Davis. She began practicing at a local area mixed animal practice and worked with dairy cattle, horses, dogs, and cats and later transitioned to small animals exclusively. She took a few years break from private practice, during which she earned a Masters in Public Health and Board Certification in Veterinary Preventive Medicine. When Dr. Whala returned to private practice, it was to start Peaceful Passing. Dr. Whala lives in Fresno and keeps busy working at a local clinic part-time, helping families assist in the peaceful passing of their pets, volunteering with Pathfinders (a boys and girls club), backpacking, and hosting friends in her home. Read More
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