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Euthanasia...When Is It Time?

With Jake at 18 years old

The following article When Is It Time was given to me by All Natural Vet Care and reprinted with their permission.

The decision regarding the euthanasia of a beloved pet may be the most difficult decision one makes in one’s entire life; obviously, the consequences are irrevocable. Whatever the decision is, it should be one that you can always look back upon and know that the best decision was made and that you would make the same decision over again in the same situation.

So how do you know if it is time? There are several criteria used in evaluating life quality and you should consider them carefully.

  • Is your pet eating? Basically, quality life involves eating or at least interest in food. An animal who is hungry has vitality that must be considered, though this is not the only consideration.
  • Is your pet comfortable? The pet should be free of debilitating pains, cramps, aches or even the psychological pain that comes from the development of incontinence in an animal that has been housebroken for an entire life. 
  • Does the pet still enjoy favourite activities? The elderly pet does not necessarily need to continue chasing balls or jumping after discs but he or she should enjoy sleeping comfortably, favourite resting spots, the company of family, etc. You know your pet better than any one and only you can truly answer these questions.

Veterinarian Dr Alice Villalobos developed a quality of life program for terminal pets, and has published a scoring system for life quality called The HHHHHMM scale. The letters stand for: Hurt, Hunger, Hydration, Hygiene, Happiness, Mobility, and More Good Days than Bad. A total of over 35 represents an acceptable quality of life.  

Quality of Life Scale: The HHHHHMM Scale


10 being the best and 1 being the worst quality, circle the number that you feel represents your companion on a scale of 1 to 10.




1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10

Terrible Pain                         No pain

HURT - Is pain controlled? Is breathing easy? (high score). Does pain control still enable a normal life or does it keep them drowsy or unwell? Do they need oxygen to survive - both these would get a low score.


1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10

Wont eat                    Good appetite

HUNGER - Is the appetite good and weight maintained? (high score). Do they need a lot of coaxing or a feeding tube? (low score).


1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10

Dehydrated                 Well hydrated

HYDRATION - Are they dehydrated? They may need subcutaneous fluids or fluids by mouth. The more dehydrated the lower the score.


1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10

Unable to keep clean     Very clean

HYGIENE - Are they able to be clean and free of smell or discharge and able to eliminate without soiling themselves. Very clean is a high score, always unclean is a low score.


1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10

Unhappy                                 Happy

HAPPINESS - Do they want to engage with the family, still go for walks, respond to favorite toys or people? High scores. Do they seem depressed, withdraw to be on their own, are anxious, bored or fearful? These are low scores. However you can bring an animals bed into the centre of things to improve their social contact (middle score).


1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10


Can’t move                 Good mobility

MOBILITY - An animal who is not very mobile can still have a good quality of life if they can be helped with a cart, sling or carrying. An animal who can’t move on their own and that can’t be moved regularly and stimulated with interaction has a low score.


1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10

Bad every day          Good every day

MORE GOOD DAYS THAN BAD - Quality of life is not good when the bad days outnumber the good. You need to set a limit. If the pet is suffering a decision needs to be made. If death comes peacefully and painlessly, that is okay.


*A total over 35 points represents acceptable life quality

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Adopt a homeless animal instead - they all deserve a second chance

It's estimated that 130,000 dogs and 60,000 cats are killed every year in Australia because there are not enough homes for them all. And the global numbers amount to millions upon millions every single year.

Puppy mills are a major contributor to the terrible problem of overpopulation. Puppy mills are essentially 'dog factories' where dogs are forced to churn out litter after litter, with no thought for the welfare of the dogs and all thought for profit. The dogs live in appallingly dirty, cramped conditions all their lives, and when they no longer serve their purpose they're killed, dumped or sold to vivisection laboratories.

Petshops fit into the picture because puppy mills are generally where petshops get their animals from. Furthermore, having animals in shop windows encourages impulse purchases, and adding an animal to your family should be a conscious, careful decision - NOT one to be made while shoe shopping.

Breeders contribute enormously to the tragic statistics above too. And it doesn't matter whether they're professional breeders or backyard breeders, and whether they breed for profit or not, because while there are homeless animals sitting on death row in shelters, any and all animal breeding is utterly irresponsible.

Now, here's where you come in. You can either be part of the problem or part of the solution. You can either buy animals from puppy mills, petshops or breeders and be part of the problem. Or you can adopt from a shelter or rescue organisation and be part of the solution.

If I haven't convinced you, visit your local shelter to see the homeless animals. Let their innocent faces convince you that adopting is the only responsible choice to make.

All information and photos are copyright © Despina Rosales.
Apart from any fair use of the information on this site for the purpose of private study, research, criticism or review (as per the Copyright Act),
written permission must be sought before reproducing it for any other means.