Quality of Life and Euthanasia

When is it time to let go?

pet euthanasia

The hardest choice you may have to make is also the kindest one.

When faced with terminal illnesses such as FIP we always need to be aware of when our loved pets no longer have any more quality of life left and when it's time to help them to cross over. That is always the most difficult part of being a cat parent – you live in the hope of that miracle turn around, but you also don't want to see your precious fur child suffering. As admins of FIP Advisory and Care Group we are often asked: "when do you make that final decision?" There is no specific time carved in stone for that moment. However, in all the years we've dealt with this we have come to realise there is merit in that saying "you will know when the time is right", " you will see it in their eyes" There is a good reason why clichés exist. There is nothing worse than waiting that moment too long and having to witness the last agonizing hours of life. That is why we have felt the need to discuss euthanasia and quality of life.

Quality of life comes first.

Euthanasia means kind death. And that is exactly what is it. A loving decision, unselfish in nature, to save our loved pets from unnecessary suffering. We base the decision on a number of things, but the most important of all is their quality of life. This concept comes up time and again but what does it mean? When an animal is having more good days than bad we say they still have quality of life but once these become fewer and fewer and life becomes a struggle then euthanasia needs to be considered.

Ticking the boxes.

Helping our loved ones to cross can be a very traumatic decision, not something that is easy to decide. What can we ask for? What can we expect? Dr. Alice Villalobos has put together a helpful Quality of Life Scale which is scored on a scale of 1 to 10 for each of the life qualities. Totalling the score will give you a number that will fall either into an Acceptable or an Unacceptable area. That will help towards the traumatic and difficult decision facing each of us.

quality of life scale

The first point is sometimes hard to determine as cats are well known for hiding pain. But there are classic clues that will help tell you what your cat is feeling and this can be seen in how they hold themselves. A loaf position with head to the floor is classic of "I'm in pain" To help identify pain we often refer to the following chart shared from the Colorado State University Feline Acute Pain Scale.

cat pain scale

Objective assessment

It is never easy to accept that your precious furball may be leaving soon, but once you are dealing with a terminal illness such as FIP then it is a crucial part of the discussion between you and your vet. The relationship between a vet and client is a very special one and vets are trained in all aspects of the psychological and emotional requirements of the owner. If you ever have doubts speak to your vet.

It is all about the number of good days as opposed to bad days your cat is experiencing. When you do need to come to that point where a decision has to be made, always ask someone who is a not as emotionally invested to help you objectively assess the situation. Be as unbiased as possible when you tick the boxes. And when the day does come, always remember that these are sentient beings with a soul, a part of your family and grief is a normal and real part of it all. This article deals exclusively with the grief process, remembering that grief has many stages and we need to allow ourselves the chance to grieve.

FIP Advisory and Care Group
Project FIP for South Africa