The decision to pursue additional medical treatments or consider euthanasia for a sick or chronically ill pet is a hard decision to make for many pet owners. This handout has been designed to help you rationally evaluate the quality of life of your pet. Beneath each segment are treatment or nursing options that you might elect to pursue to improve your pets quality of life.

Answer each of the questions in each section with a score from 0-5. A score of zero means this question does not apply to my pet, a score of 5 means the condition is as severe as it could be.


Pain control is essential. Many animals do not verbalize or act obviously painful Many animals withdraw, hide, or remain immobile. Many animals hide their discomfort which is a survival mechanism passed down from their ancestors. Below are some of the pain responses you are more likely to see.

Consider the following:

____My pet hurts.
____My pet limps. (If it didn't hurt, they wouldn't limp.)
____My pet pants frequently, even at rest.
____My pet's respirations are forced, exaggerated, or otherwise not normal.
____My pet licks repeatedly at one site on his/her body or at a site of a cancer/tumor.
____My pet guards or protects and area of his/her body.
____My animal's posture or gait is abnormal or different than normal. (arched back/shuffling/balance loss/using leg abnormally)
____My pet shakes or trembles sometimes during rest.
____My pet is on pain medication and it doesn't work.
____My pet is more likely to snap or bite when I touch him it painful areas.

Possible medical or nursing interventions include: start pain medication, change pain medications, combinations of pain medications from different drug classes, surgical intervention, non-traditional medicine (acupuncture, physical therapy), always be sure the underlying disease/condition has been treated properly.

*Severe pain which is unrelenting or rapidly progressive despite medical interventions should prompt a decision to euthanize*


Breathing is imperative to life. Having difficulty breathing can be frightening and debilitating to animals.

Consider the following:

____My pets respiratory effort (the amount of work it takes to breathe) is not normal.
____My pet must breathe or cannot breathe with his/her mouth shut.
____My pet quickly collapses or breathes heavy with exercise.
____The sounds my pet makes in breathing are getting louder.

Possible medical or nursing interventions include: Medications, corrective surgery, oxygen support, or nebulizing therapy.

*Gasping to breathe, excessively working hard to breathe, excessive fatigue from breathing should either prompt an emergency trip to a veterinary hospital for immediate medical care or euthanasia.*


Appetite is one of the most obvious signs of wellness. Most animals are normally vigorous eaters.

Consider the following:

____My pet doesn't eat his/her normal food anymore.
____My pet picks at his/her food now but never used to do this.
____My pet walks over to his/her food and looks at it but wont eat or walks away.
____My pet doesn't even want good stuff (treats, human foods, snacks) anymore.
____My pet acts nauseated or vomits.
____My pet is losing weight.

Possible medical or nursing interventions include: hand feeding, heating food, adding moisture by soaking food or using canned varieties, careful addition of human foods, syringe feeding, stomach tube placement, medications for appetite stimulation, medications for nausea.


Hydration status is equally important as appetite. Without adequate water consumption, your pet can become dehydrated. Dehydration can contribute to weakness and not feeling well.

Consider the following:

____My pet doesn't drink as much as he/she used to.
____My pet frequently has dry, sticky gums.
____My pet is vomiting or has diarrhea (fluid loss can also contribute to dehydration).

Possible medical or nursing interventions for include: add moisture to the diet, subcutaneous fluid administration, medications to control vomiting or diarrhea.


Animals that don't feel well, especially cats, do not have the energy to maintain normal hair and skin.

Consider the following:

____My cat doesn't groom herself any more.
____My pets hair is matted, greasy, rough looking, dull, or foul smelling.
____My pet has stool pasted around his/her rectum or in his/her hair.
____My pet smells like urine or has skin irritation from urine.
____My pet has pressure sores/wounds that wont heal.

Possible medical or nursing interventions include: regular brushing and grooming, frequent bedding changes, adequate padding for areas where the pet spends a lot of time, appropriate wound care, treat the underlying disease/condition.


Changes in normal activity can be due to mobility problems, pain, illness, or aging (arthritis).

Consider the following:

____My pet cannot get up without assistance.
____My pet had a hard time getting around and/or limps.
____My pet lays in one place all day long.
____My pet does not want to play ball, go for walks, or do the things he/she used to do.
____My pet falls frequently.
____ Because of my pets arthritic or spinal cord disease he is now occasionally/regularly incontinent.

Possible medical or nursing interventions include: pain medication addition or adjustment, physical therapy.


Another important area of consideration is the pet's mental status and happiness. Answer this important question. When my pet was young and healthy his/her favorite things to do were:
___________________ ____________________ __________________

Is your pet still doing them? Why or why not? Give yourself 3 pts if he is still doing one of them, 4 pts if he is doing two of the things, 5 pts for all three things.

Consider the following:

____My pet does not express joy and interest in life.
____My pet does not respond to the people that he/she used to respond to.
____My pet does not want to play with toys or do other things that he/she used to enjoy.
____My pet seems dull, not alert, or depressed.


Changes in normal behavioral patterns are often a key indicator of how well an animal feels.

Consider the following:

____My pet is hiding or sleeping in odd places.
____My pet doesn't greet me when I come home and he/she used to.
____My pet is overly clingy and is following me around and he/she never used to do this.
____My other pets are treating this pet differently they are overly attentive or ignoring him/her completely.
____My pet doesn't care about what is going on around him/her.


Many times an owner is aware that their pet is suffering, but does not want to give up on their pet.

Consider the following:

____If I were in a similar situation I would not want to live?
____Would it be painful if I had this condition.
____I have made appointments for euthanasia for my pet, but I cancelled/didn't show up.
____I am holding onto this pet for some sentimental reason. (ex. the pet belonged to a now deceased family member, the pet helped me through a hard time in my life, etc.)
____ My pet is having more bad days than good days.

If your pets score is greater than 170 than your pets quality of life is not ideal. . .
Make notes about your pets specific medical condition. Speak to your family veterinarian about potential medical solutions for your pets illness. Print off this sheet and repeat the survey at regular intervals to compare - perhaps weekly for animals who are close to their life's end, monthly for animals with a progressive disease problem, tri-annually for geriatric animals. This will allow you to see more subtle progressive changes in your pets condition and make decisions based on these observations.