Quality of Life
Quality of Life (QOL) is how happy and ‘good’ your pet is doing on a day-to-day basis. For us at the Cancer Center, QOL is the main driving force behind what we do. From the first time we see your pet to the last, QOL is our top priority. QOL, though, is more than just the clinical side of how your pet is doing. There are several different factors that play into QOL and most of them involve how your pet is at home. The importance of each area and how it affects QOL is different for each family, and can even differ from one pet to another.
QOL should be assessed often after your pet is diagnosed with any disease. The exact frequency will vary based on your pet’s specific disease and how affected they are by it. At a minimum, QOL assessments should be made monthly or after any significant change in the status of your pet’s health. Weekly, or even daily, assessments may even be appropriate to best monitor your pet. You should do what feels most comfortable for you. If daily assessments help you feel in control of your pet’s QOL, then by all means do them, even when they are doing great. It is also important to review your pet’s previous assessments from time to time. This helps you see both their response and their progression. Some changes take time to notice and ‘normal’ for your pet can change without you realizing it.
The following is a list of questions you can ask yourself about your pet to help determine what QOL means for the both of you, what you are willing and/or able to do, what is acceptable for your pet to experience, and what is not. There will also be a list of explanations of some of the more common areas that help determine QOL. It is also important to discuss your goals and limitations with your doctor, as well as bring up any questions or concerns that you have with them. They can help guide you down this often difficult path and aid you in making educated decisions about, and for, your pet. We have created a QOL assessment table that you can use to monitor your pet. You can also take the information you get from the following pages and create your own that is tailored specifically to your pet and family.
Questions to consider
- Is my pet experiencing pain? If so, how severe is it?
- Can they eat, drink, urinate, and defecate normally/on their own? Am I willing or able to help them if they can’t?
- Is my pet nauseous, vomiting, or having diarrhea/soft stools? If so, how often and how severely does it affect them?
- Are they able to keep themselves clean and sanitary? Am I willing or able to do this for them if they can’t?
- How is my pet doing mentally? Are they bright and alert? Are they mentally aware of their surroundings? Do they seem quieter than normal, or mentally altered? Are there any new behaviors that are concerning or hazardous to my pet or others in the household?
- How much time can I realistically set aside to provide more intensive medical care for my pet? What am I able to provide financially for the care of my pet?
- Do the good days outweigh the bad days? Are there more good days than bad days?
- Is my pet able to experience or do the things they enjoy most?
- Are there any side effects, symptoms, or medical conditions that I will not tolerate my pet experiencing?
- Is euthanasia something I will consider for my pet? How much value is placed on the opinion of the veterinary team when it comes to recommendations about treatment versus euthanasia?
Areas to consider
- Mobility is how well your pet can get around and how they feel when they get around.
- Good: gets around without assistance; enjoys walks/playing; doesn’t hesitate to move around or jump up/down
- Limited/poor: needs some help getting up, down, and/or around; can only walk or play for short periods of time; hesitates or isn’t able to jump or walk up/down stairs; has difficulties posturing to eliminate; pain can be controlled all or mostly with medications
- None/minimum: requires assistance to get around or isn’t able to move at all; pain cannot be adequately controlled with medications
- Nutrition includes what your pet is eating, how well they are eating, and how much of the nutrients your pet is absorbing.
- Good: will readily eat their regular diet and eat an appropriate amount of food for their size; maintains their weight and appropriate muscle condition; missed meals, vomiting, and diarrhea are a rare occurrence (not more than a couple times a month or for more than a day or two in duration).
- Limited/poor: will eat only some of their meal and/or needs some encouragement (verbal coaxing, hand feeding, etc.) to eat; body and muscle condition decreases but is still acceptable; will only eat ‘special’ foods and treats; appetite waxes and wanes; missed meals, vomiting, and diarrhea occur often (only a couple times a month and lasts for only a few days at a time or sporadically for only a day or two but for at least 3 weeks out of a month).
- None/minimum: will not eat at all; will not eat regular food but can be encouraged or coaxed to treats and ‘special’ food; body and muscle condition has decreased dramatically; missed meals, vomiting, and diarrhea occur several times a week to daily.
- Hydration is how well your pet is able to maintain appropriate fluid levels in the body. This includes both increases and decreased in fluid intake. It is important to distinguish changes in hydration that are causes by the disease from those caused by medications.
- Good/normal: stays adequately hydrated on their own without assistance or coaxing; urinates normally and of an appropriate volume
- Poor/inappropriate: drinks more or less than normal; may need SQ fluids to maintain hydration or medications to remove excess fluid from the body; urination is altered based on the fluid intake
- None/extreme: is not drinking at all or cannot stop drinking; need IV fluids or water rationing; urination is absent or very frequent
- Attitude/Mentation is how your pet is acting and interacting with you and other members of the family. This can also include how many normal activities your pet voluntarily does.
- Good/normal: is interactive, bright, and responsive to you and other members of the family; readily participates or wants to participate in normal family activities; seems happy and appears to be enjoying life.
- Limited/poor: will interact some with family; might not interact as often or be as enthusiastic; may seem to ‘dragging’ or quieter than normal; will do some normal activities but not others; is responsive but might take more effort to get a reaction
- None/minimum: will not interact at all or very little, even after a lot of effort; hides or runs away from interactions; will not participate or must be forced to do normal activities; is very quiet, minimally responsive, or not conscious at all.
- Unique traits and favorite things can help you to monitor just how ‘happy’ your pet is. What falls into this category is different for each pet but include any activity, habit, or hobbies that your pet does.
- Good/normal: participates in activities and acts normally
- Limited/poor: desire to participate can vary or be limited; traits or habits may be decreased; may want to do it but can’t or won’t actually participate.
- None/minimum: will not participate in most or any activities/hobbies; show no interest in activities/hobbies; traits are decreased or absent
Quality of Life Assessment Tool
Answer the questions as best you can by choosing the answer that fits best since the last assessment was taken. If this is the first assessment or an assessment after a significant change in health, choose the answers that best fit the symptoms your pet is currently having.