Knowing When It’s Time: Tools For End Of Life Care

One of the most difficult experiences as a pet owner is trying to make decisions surrounding the end of your pet’s life. Any scenario- a geriatric pet in a lengthy period of decline, a young pet with a severe illness or injury, a physically healthy pet with severe behavioral issues- requires difficult emotional and mental work to decide when the time is right to consider humane euthanasia. We have some suggestions to aid families in navigating this decision.

Some caregivers find subjective guidelines easier to use. We recommend making a list of specific things that make your pet happy.  For example, this may be a) joining you at the dinner table; b) coming into the kitchen when they hear the cheese drawer open; c) asking for their breakfast at the same time every day; d) snuggling with you while watching TV; and so on.  Once this list is created, you can monitor closely to see when these activities decline or disappear.  If more than 50% of your list disappears, it is likely time to consider whether your pet’s quality of life is still good.

Another way to measure your pet’s quality of life is to create a good day/bad day jar. Each day, everyone in the family that has been with their pet should put a penny or paper clip in the appropriate jar.  If you begin to notice the bad day jar filling up more than the good day jar, it is time to have a conversation about quality of life.

Other families find objective measures easier to use. There are a number of helpful Quality of Life scales that can help you consider different parameters that make your pet’s life worth living. Some of the categories to consider are physical needs (i.e. does your pet have a good appetite, are they able to stay hydrated, and can they breathe comfortably?), emotional needs (does your pet still want to engage with you and other animal friends, and do they get excited about activities that they have been excited about in the past?), and mental needs (are they able to safely navigate their environment, do they follow a normal day/night cycle, and are they able to urinate/defecate in the appropriate places?). Quality of Life scales allow you to assign points to each parameter and give an objective measure about whether your pet’s quality of life is adequate or compromised. Here are several of the scales that we have found helpful:

JOURNEYS Quality of Life Scale by Dr. Katie Hilst

Quality of Life Assessment by Lap of Love

Knowing When It’s Time to Say Goodbye by Minnesota Pets

How Do I Know When It’s Time? Assessing Quality of Life for Your Companion Animal and Making End-of-Life Decisions by The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine

Quality of Life Scale by Pawspice

Veterinarians navigate conversations about end-of-life every day. If you have used the above tools and have concerns about your pet’s quality of life, or if you still aren’t sure whether your pet’s quality of life is acceptable, please reach out to schedule a quality of life conversation. We are honored to help you as you walk this most difficult part of caring for and loving your pet.

Canine Influenza Outbreak Update

The Minnesota Board of Animal Health provided updated guidelines about the H3N2 canine influenza outbreak on Wednesday, April 26th. The pertinent information from their update includes:

  • Four additional cases of H3N2 influenza have been confirmed separate from the original outbreak at the Animal Humane Society, as well as significant evidence of community spread.
  • Avoid direct dog-to-dog interaction with other dogs outside of your household, and especially with dogs who have recently been boarded.
  • Keep sick dogs at home. Dogs with influenza can shed the virus for up to 30 days after having been sick. If your dog is showing respiratory symptoms such as a runny nose or cough, testing them for influenza will help to provide accurate guidance about how long your dog should be quarantined from other dogs.
  • Avoid spaces with uncontrolled dog-to-dog interaction such as dog parks. 
  • If your pet regularly attends grooming, daycare, or training classes, ask the facility what steps they are taking to protect pets from influenza. These activities can be very important for your pet’s emotional wellbeing and behavior, so it may still make sense for your pet to attend, but make sure the facility is reducing risks wherever possible.
  • When possible, vaccinate your dog if they are at high risk of exposure to influenza (i.e. pets who attend shows or agility trials, pets who are boarded regularly, dogs who are very social).

Canine Influenza Vaccines do exist, but unfortunately are on a nationwide backorder. We are on a priority list for acquiring vaccines when they are available and will let clients know when we can begin vaccinating dogs. We will continue to provide updates as they are available!

Employee Spotlight: Christina Sink

Christina is one of our team of amazing veterinary assistants. She is originally from Augusta, GA and has a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Georgia Southern University. She worked in renal physiology research at Augusta University after graduating college, and is currently attending veterinary school at the University of Minnesota (class of 2025). Her passions include small animal medicine, small mammal exotics, and of course Boxers! In her free time, she enjoys running, biking and swimming. 

What is your favorite aspect of veterinary medicine?

My favorite aspect of veterinary medicine is the community it creates. There is something truly special about connecting with clients and coworkers around the love for animals and the joy they bring to our lives. The mutual understanding of how important our pets are to us brings us closer together and gives us common ground, no matter who you are! 

Why do you love working at St. Francis?

I love working at St. Francis because it is shaping me into the veterinarian I want to be. I have met such wonderful mentors and friends and learn so much every day. I look forward to coming in and connecting with animals and their owners, and applying knowledge from school as I go.

Upcoming Closures

We will be closed from Saturday, May 27th through Monday, May 29th for Memorial Day.