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Understanding The Dog Quality Of Life Scale

Dogs are our family. When we have one, we are responsible for taking care of him, protecting him, and just simply being there for him — as we would with any family member. We love cuddling, playing, and relaxing with our pups, and we want them to have the best quality of life possible.

There might come a time when our dog gets old or sick and we have to make serious — and heartbreaking — decisions about how we should proceed. Choosing to euthanize a dog — or putting a dog down — is a complicated and difficult decision to make.

You love your dog and don’t want her to die. At the same time, though, you also want your dog to maintain her quality of life. And if she’s in pain or unhappy, or has trouble doing everyday things, then you don’t want your dog to continue to suffer.

So the big question is — how do you know when it’s the right time?

In order to determine if euthanizing your pet is the right choice in your situation, Dr. Alice Villalobos, DVM, developed a Quality of Life Scale — also called the HHHHHMM Scale. This scale will help you be objective during this emotional time and assess your dog on specific quality of life factors that will then let you know if it’s time to let go of your lovable pooch.

For each category, you will rate your dog on a 0 to 10 scale, with 10 being the highest rating and 0 being the lowest rating. It is suggested that you complete the scale assessment three times over three consecutive days to get the most accurate reading.

Score 1-10 Category
  HURT: Does your dog have trouble breathing? Is your dog in pain? Can the pain be managed? Does your dog need oxygen? Learn the signs that your dog is in pain.
  HUNGER: Is your dog eating enough? Will hand-feeding help? Does your dog need a feeding tube?
  HYDRATION: Is your dog dehydrated? Do you need to supplement your dog’s fluid intake with subcutaneous fluids? How does your dog respond to the fluids?
  HYGIENE: Your dog should be brushed and cleaned regularly, especially after eliminations. Does your dog have incontinence problems? Does your dog have pressure sores? Keep any wounds clean and provide soft bedding.
  HAPPINESS: Does your dog show joy and interest? Is your dog responsive to his environment? Is your dog depressed, anxious, bored, lonely, or scared? Can you reduce your dog’s isolation by bringing her closer to the family?
  MOBILITY: Does your dog need assistance to get up? Does he want to go for walks? Is he stumbling or having seizures? Some people think euthanasia is preferable to amputation, but dogs with limited mobility can still lead happy lives as long as Pack Leaders are dedicated to providing the necessary care.
  MORE GOOD DAYS THAN BAD: If bad days outnumber the good days, then your dog’s quality of life might be compromised. If you can’t have a healthy human-dog bond, then the end is most likely near. When your dog is suffering, you will have to make a decision about euthanasia.

After you score each category, add up the numbers. If your total score is above 35, then your dog’s quality of life is acceptable. If, however, your score is below 35, you should consider euthanasia.

Also remember to always discuss your options with your vet to make sure you are making the right decision, regardless of the quality of life scale assessment.

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