Tracking Good Days and Bad Days in Assessing your Pet's Quality of Life
Tracking good days vs. bad days can help you assess quality of life in Senior Pets.
Knowing how our senior pets are actually doing and feeling can be dog-gone difficult to decipher! Until there is an app developed that interprets barks and meows, we are left to our own understanding to figure this out! To make complicate this further, many pets are subtle in how they display pain, distress or fear. Often times changes in behavior are missed or misinterpreted and disregarded as insignificant or normal aging. Furthermore, our pet’s love and joy for being with us and their instinctual nature to conceal illness, pain and disease often makes them masters at hiding signs of pain.
Understanding our pet’s body language, watching for changes in behavior and learning signs of pain, distress and fear are very helpful in caring for our pets. Quality of life assessments can also aide us in understanding how they are doing and highlighting areas that need to be addressed. Hospice veterinarians are specially trained in helping discern signs of pain and quality of life, as well as educating family’s on how to best care of their pet and their specific needs, to find a hospice veterinarian near you, click here.
A helpful but often overlooked tool for pet parents that want the best care and quality of life for their for their pet is the calendar. It’s a useful tool for tracking day to day signs, changes, making notes and listing good or bad events/ days that your pet is showing. By tracking the days, the calendar serves as an effective daily record so that trends can be seen, which may indicate areas that your pet needs help, and in deciphering overall quality of life, which can help in determining when its time to consider euthanasia. Tracking days on a calendar also helps engage conversation between family and household members. The calendar can also serve as convenient way of documenting what medications were given and at what time. If multiple household members are making notes on the calendar, we suggest choosing a different color pen per contributing person. The calendar also is a helpful document for your veterinarian- identifying areas that need addressing for your pet and perhaps you as the caregiver to help increase quality of life, revealing trends in your pet’s health, as clarifying how your pet is doing on a day to day basis in their home surroundings.
Details to include on your calendar when tracking days:
Wondering what to include in a calendar when tracking your pet’s day to day changes? Here is a list of helpful details:
Overall was today a good day or a bad day? Sometimes certain parts of the day were “bad”, this should be noted.
What medications were given, and when they were given
Make notes about any changes in behavior
How was your pet’s appetite and drinking? Were special foods needed to entice you pet to eat? Did you need to hand feed your pet or bring the food / water to them?
Specific to your pet’s condition and diagnosis, what signs did your veterinarian recommend your be aware of? For example, if your pet was struggling with congestive heart failure, areas to specifically monitor would likely include resting respiratory rate, activity level, coughing, gum coloration and panting
Level of engagement with family members and surroundings
Case Study: “Cirrus”
Cirrus is vibrant boy of 13 years. His mom often refers to his “sparkly” personality, which is a perfect description of his amazing attitude. Unfortunately he struggles with liver failure and severe arthritis in his elbows and hips. Cirrus has struggled with liver disease for over a year and his arthritis has been progressively worsening over the past few years. Cirrus is a hospice patient of ours and our focus is on comfort care for Cirrus including anticipating disease progression and monitoring quality of life. As his conditions have progressed and his condition deteriorated, we recommended that his family begin tracking days as part of his care plan and monitoring his quality of life. As a veterinarian, going through the calendar and notes that Cirrus’ family take are immensely helpful for seeing trends, such the number good days he is experiencing vs bad days and overall how is doing based on detailed notes about how he is doing on a day to day basis. The notes Cirrus’s family made on the calendar also showed that he was beginning to experience weight loss and intermittent diarrhea that was becoming more consistent, realizing these changes allowed us to swiftly address these issues, make changes in his diet, feeding schedule, and medication protocol before Cirrus struggled more.
“Tracking good days vs bad days and making notes about how Cirrus is doing on a daily basis have helped my husband and I greatly as we care for our boy. It is so difficult to know how much discomfort he is in because Cirrus has such a joyful spirit. Calendar tracking has helped us better notice changes in his routine and behavior that may be caused by pain and weakness, and is helping clarify what to look for when its time to think about helping him pass on.” ~ Jody, Cirrus’s mom
If you and your pet need help navigating senior and end of life care decisions, we are here to help. Hospice veterinarians are compassionate and specially trained to help discern signs of pain and quality of life, as well as education on how to best care of your pet and their specific needs. To find a hospice veterinarian near you, click here.