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How to assess your pet's quality of life

The first thing to remember when you are worrying about the way that ageing is affecting your pet's life is that you and your family know better than anyone how your pet feels, and that there is no-one who cares more than you do.

If you are worried that your pet is not really enjoying life do bring him/her along for a check-up and to discuss the problems. We will always look for ways to help, or if that doesn't seem possible, we can help you to decide whether it is fair to carry on. We are interested first and foremost in your pet's well-being, just as you are.

If you have a pet whose life is being spoiled by old age problems and you are not sure whether he/she is suffering unduly, think about what he/she is able to do (eating, drinking, going out to the toilet, moving about the house to be with you, going for walks etc) and decide how the pet feels about the things it can no longer do. Animals do 'retire' from the activities of youth, and may be quite content doing very little. They do vary, though, and you know best how YOUR pet feels about restrictions in its life. You might find it useful to write a list of what matters to your pet and scoring each out of 10 to decide how adequate its life is.

Remember that animals need to keep their dignity. Incontinence is not rare in ageing pets and owners tend to be very aware of how it affects the humans and their house and feel that they should put up with it as their pet is old. They forget that most pets are very upset by incontinence.

If you feel your pet's quality of life is poor, but you cannot decide whether to have him/her put to sleep, try asking yourself what you would be depriving him/her of if you did. It is often much clearer when you realise that the rest of the animal's life would otherwise be spent effectively waiting for the end.

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