Euthanasia for Your Pet – How will i know when its time?

Many people assume that euthanasia must be the hardest part of my job as a veterinarian and surprisingly (and truthfully), it isn’t. I see it as gift we can give to animals that are at the end of their life and are suffering.  Many clients ask me if I think it’s time for them to euthanize their elderly or sick pet. This is always hard to answer. So I wanted to share with you some different ways to assess quality of life at home to help you come to a decision if you are considering euthanasia for your beloved sick or elderly pet.

1) It’s important to realize that animals live in the moment; they will experience the same joy when you walk through the door whether you leave the house for 5 minutes, or whether you leave for a 12 hour shift. So it’s important to keep that in mind- really assess how your pet is doing at this moment in time.

2) Some questions to ask yourself: Why do I think it might be time to euthanize? What are my fears concerning euthanasia? Am I making this decision because it is best for my pet?

3) The Rule of “Five Good Things” (courtesy of Dr Andy Roark): Think back over the course of your pet’s life and consider your pet’s top 5 things he or she loves to do. Write them down. If she or he can no longer do three or more of them, this is a good indicator that their quality of life has been impacted to a point where euthanasia should be considered.

4) “HHHHHMM” Quality of life scale (courtesy of Dr. Alice Villabos). The five H’s and two M’s are: Hurt, Hunger, Hydration, Happiness, Hygiene (ability to keep the pet clean from bodily waste), Mobility and More (as in more good days then bad). It’s recommended to grade each category on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being the best). If the majority are 5 or above, then continuing care is acceptable.

5) Keeping a daily diary is a good idea as well- here is a link to one:

The decision to humanely euthanize a beloved pet is never easy but hopefully these tools help you to better assess your pet’s quality of life and come to a decision that is best for you and your pet. Here at Acadia Veterinary Hospital we offer home euthanasia and home hospice care. Hospice care allows us to visit with your terminally ill or geriatric pet in their own environment to better assess quality of life, and to help us give better recommendations to help with their care and comfort. We also perform home euthanasia, so your pet can pass peacefully in their home, where they are the most comfortable.