Older dogs and quality of life
Just because I'm gray doesn't mean I don't have some good days left in me...


Let’s face it: sooner or later we all come to our life end stage — ALL of us. Nobody escapes, and they haven’t perfected a cryogenic sci-fi apparatus yet that successfully stores our remains in suspended animation indefinitely just yet, so put living to be 800 years old out of your mind for the time being. Getting back to the here and now, when it comes to our pets, end of life stage or immeasurable pain that cancels out quality of life, while difficult, needs to be looked at clearly. The JOURNEYS Life Scale can help you do that.

QOL Scale for Pets

Quality of life (QOL) scales are used to determine how one is feeling. Like most scales, they are based on a numerical grade. The calculations can help recipients of the information quantify the overall comfort and happiness levels of the individual being assessed. These scales are typically used when a being has a terminal illness or is at an end stage in life. While it doesn’t make it any easier emotionally, the information derived can help families decide when it is time to let a loved one go. That’s what JOURNEYS is all about.

Pet Care

All situations are different. Take terminal illness, a situation for which there is no cure or hope of recovery. If the patient can be managed through palliative care — easing pain and nausea while maintaining nutrition, hydration and mobility — and remain comfortable, there is no reason (other than cost) that you can’t spend more time with them without guilt. But you need to know where they’re at first, so you’ll need to objectively consider eight variables and then discuss the results with your vet.


In this case the acronym “JOURNEYS” stands for Jumping (mobility), Ouch (pain), Understanding (awareness), Respiration (breathing), Neatness (hygiene), Eating (and drinking), You and Social ability. Answering questions regarding these eight factors can help you realistically gauge your pet’s QOL. These same questions should be asked when an animal is suffering debilitating, chronic pain with no hope for relief, not just illnesses or old age. As corny as it sounds, alleviating pain and suffering is the kindest act you can bestow upon another.


If it turns out euthanasia is the kindest route, then don’t put it off. If you don’t want your pet’s last moments to be ones of anxiety at the veterinarian’s office, there are options, depending on where you reside. In Washington and Wisconsin, for instance, you can call a number of in-home euthanasia services run by veterinarians that will come to you. Some can also provide you with phone consultations regarding the animal’s status and you can decide from there.

Remember, as heart wrenching as it is, you have to ask yourself if you’d want to live that way. If the answer is “no,” then you have your answer. Sometimes being a pet parent can be decidedly rough. Knowing you did the right thing, however, can go a long way towards healing.