As hospice vets at Dignipets we are often asked the questions; “When is it time?”. “How will I know if my pet is suffering?” .“I’m not sure whether to put my pet through any more treatment.””How do I know my pet still has sufficient quality of life?.”
Maja one of the hospice vets at Dignipets; “Owners are often told that they will know when the time comes, but it is not always that clear. This puts a lot of pressure on pet owners. We are often already staring at our pet through a magnifying glass from the moment they are diagnosed with a life limiting condition or are suffering with old age. The Covid crisis and all it brings with it means there is even more need to be able to support our clients and their pets remotely.“
Because some pets will not give specific signs owners will have to rely on their vet, their family and their friends to help support and guide them. And a lot of that support will be found online especially now during Covid times.
So in this article we are discussing how quality of life (QOL) assessments can help with the decision making process.
What is quality of life?
The International Association of Animal Hospice and Palliative Care (IAAHPC) guidelines define QOL as “the total wellbeing of an individual animal that considers the physical, social and emotional aspects of life.” “It is a multidimensional construct that is subjectively experienced by and is uniquely personal to the individual.”
QOL assessments can help provide a useful guideline for pet owners with pets that are in their end of life phase. With some guidance from a hospice vet they are relatively easy to implement. QOL can be assessed before and during a hospice plan has been started for your pet.
How can we assess quality of life?
Conducting a quality of life assessment initially asks for collaboration between the pet owner and their hospice vet. But with the current situation of Covid-19 our hospice vets at Dignipets are only able to make home visit for 24/7 end of life visits. So we stuck our heads together to see how we can help pet owners and their pets remotely and came up with a plan.
There are several different QOL assessments available for a hospice vet to use. Currently at Dignipets we selected the ones that we find helpful tools for pet owners to use independently after the initial hospice vet visit. And we came up with two that we combined on our website with free access to all pet owners everywhere.
Often in QOL assessments there will only be one or two questions in relation to social or emotional needs, meaning to a total QOL score these elements will have less weighting than the physical needs.
And it could also be that some elements should be deemed more important than others, for example, high pain levels may be so overwhelming that the other scores may no longer be significant. So there are limitations to these assessments.
Another element that is difficult to ascertain from a QOL assessments alone is your needs as the primary caregiver; your expectations and your limitations when it comes to caring for your pet at home.
In conclusion, QOL assessments can be a useful tool for hospice vets and pet owners with decision making for a pet that is dealing with a life limiting condition.
They can help to show a pet’s current QOL level and can help demonstrate improvement or decline in a pet’s condition if used before and during their hospice plan.
Now more than ever it is important to give you as primary carer the support and tools to help your remotely with these difficult decisions.