JoAnna Lou
Print|Email|Text Size: ||
Assessing Quality of Life
Survey helps determine when to make the most difficult of decisions

Deciding when to euthanize a sick pet is one of the hardest decisions that we have to make. When my cat of 18 years became seriously ill, my family was too emotional to make objective decisions. In hindsight, I think we waited too long to put him to sleep, but we wanted to make sure that we tried everything to extend his life. 

Now a new survey, developed by researchers at Michigan State University, may help us make clear decisions in these stressful situations. The pilot version of their questionnaire was created to help assess the quality of life of dogs undergoing chemotherapy for cancer.
In their study, families completed a questionnaire at the time of diagnosis comparing the dog's current behavior with their typical behavior six months prior. Follow-up surveys were filled out three and six weeks later to document changes in behavior as the pups underwent chemotherapy. The veterinarians also filled out shorter questionnaires based on their observations. The separate surveys aimed to balance the more subjective, but complete view of the people who live with the dogs (since they see the day-to-day behavior changes) and the objective, scientific view of the veterinarians.  
The researchers found that family and veterinarian responses were fairly well-matched, showing that the questionnaire can be a helpful way to find common ground for treatment decisions. The answers were particularly aligned on three questions involving changes in the dogs' play behavior, clinical signs of disease, and perceived canine happiness. Agreement on those questions led researchers to use them as effective indicators of quality of life that could be used in animal cancer clinics.
Now the team is planning a follow-up study with hundreds of dogs and their families so that the survey can be adapted to a wider range of illnesses. This tool could potentially help countless stressed families make educated decisions for their pets.
JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.

Photo by G.L. Kohuth.

CommentsPost a Comment
Please note comments are moderated. After being approved your comment will appear below.
Submitted by Ellis Hughes | July 11 2013 |

This information is long overdue. I'm tired of vets telling me (over the years, it's all the same) "when the pet has more bad days than good" ... or others saying "you'll know."

Neither comment is helpful.

If there could be a check-list (to start with) ... physical things to look for whether it's dehydration or inability to jump up or unresponsive eyes or whatever. Or behavioral things like not eating or drinking water or whatever. Just a straightforward, no fuzzy talking, description of what happens to dogs (or cats or horses) as they get close to death.

I'm sure that when they are in school, vets learn such indicators. Why can't we pet lovers have the same straightforward information?

Submitted by Anonymous | July 11 2013 |

did i miss it? where is the actul questionarre?

More in JoAnna Lou:
British Airways Launches Onboard Pet Entertainment
Borrowing a Pup on Vacation
Do We Over Include Our Pups?
Latest Shock Collar Research
OSU's Full Time Pet Therapy Program
Canine Hero Returns to Ground Zero
Dogs Prefer Petting Over Praise
Microchip Brings Dog Home Eight Years Later
Canine Curriculum for Kids
Jealousy in Dogs