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Quality of Life – Is Your Dog Living His Best Life?

Quality of life is the most important thing for humans and animals. Imagine being sick and bed-ridden with the knowledge that you may not get any better. It’s a sad thought, but it’s one that dog owners sometimes have to take into consideration.

Dogs, like people, can be diagnosed with a number of conditions. Some of these conditions can be successfully treated medically. Others, cannot.

Deciding when or if you should euthanize your dog is emotionally turbulent. It’s definitely not the kind of thing anyone would take lightly.

How to Determine Quality of Life in Dogs

Thankfully, experts in the field have created specific guidelines to consider. It offers dog parents a way to determine how their dogs day-to-day lifestyle is going.

Dr. Alice Villalobos has developed a useful tool for assessing quality of life in dogs. The assessment was created to help dog owners and veterinarians determine the success of hospice or palliative care. That said, it can also be used as a reference to generally assess how your dog may be feeling.

7 Categories of Reference for a Dog’s Quality of Life

Each category listed below has a few questions. Read and reflect on the answers being as honest as you can about the situation at hand. Your dog may not be able to tell you exactly how he/she feels, but the following categories should help you draw the conclusion.


  • Is your dog experiencing pain on a regular basis?
  • Is pain being managed adequately through medical means?
  • Is your dog breathing properly? Proper breathing is a key pain management strategy.


  • Is your dog able to drink on his/her own?
  • If not, are you able to ensure your dog can get enough water?
  • Does your dog appear dehydrated? A dehydrated dog can appear to have sunken eyes, dull fur, lack of energy, sticky gums, pale gums, skin at the back of the neck doesn’t snap back quickly


  • Does your dog have any appetite?
  • Will your dog still eat his/her favorite treats?
  • If your dog is eating, can he/she keep the food down or does your dog vomit?
  • Are you able to stimulate your dog’s appetite through medical means?
  • Can you hand-feed your dog?
  • Has a feeding tube been suggested?
  • Will your dog eat very soft food?
senior dog being cared for


  • Will your dog allow you to comb, brush, and clean him/her?
  • Do you smell anything unusual on the fur? Tumors can be smelly once they’ve outgrown their blood supply. The dead cells should be gently cleaned away with diluted soap from the veterinarian.
  • Have you noticed sore around pressure points where your dog is laying?
  • If so, are you able to regularly turn your bedridden dog around and ensure there is enough padding to prevent sores?
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  • Dog owners know when their dogs are happy. Is your dog still wagging his/her tail sometimes?
  • Do you see a spark of interest or excitement in his/her eyes at all?
  • If your dog seems depressed, consider moving his/her bed in a room where more people regularly get together (living room, etc.)


  • Is your dog able to move at all?
  • Can your dog stand up or does he/she require support.
  • Follow the veterinarian or physical therapist’s suggestions on keeping your dog moving.

Mobility Assistance For Your Dog

If your dog is too large to manage with a sling or harness for mobility, there are plenty of other options on the market. Mobility devices are important to keep dogs moving. By helping your dog become more mobile, you’re doing a lot to help him physically and mentally.


At some point, you have to assess whether your dog is having more good days than bad. Does it seem as if your dog is getting some enjoyment out of life on a regular basis? Are the good days (the days when your dog doesn’t seem to be in pain or is vomiting, etc.) outweighing the bad?

It can be tough to be objective when you’re so close to the dog. If you’re not sure, enlist the help of a third-party person who can be honest and impartial.

You Might Also Be Interested In:

9 Top Clinical Reasons Why Dogs Shake Their Heads

17 Quality Pet Treats for Dogs with Pancreatitis


It’s important to follow your dog’s progress while regularly assessing quality of life. Sick dogs can become well again. Sadly, if your dog is being cared for palliatively, it’s just a matter of time.

The best you can do for your dog is offer as much comfort as you can. Your veterinarian will be able to suggest a number of ways to do that, including medical interventions. For a much more detailed assessment, use the JOURNEYs scale, created by Dr. Katie Hilst.

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