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Euthanizing a pet is never an easy decision to make. Assessing their quality of life is the best way to know if it's time to let them go peacefully. Jessi and the animals discuss how to assess their quality of life and what questions to ask in order to make the decision easier.

Quality of Life Resources:

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Hi everyone, I'm Jessi and we're here at Animal Wonders. Today, I'm going to be talking about a hard topic that everyone who has animals in their life will probably have to think about at some point: euthanasia, and how important quality of life is when you're having to make that decision. So to make that discussion a little bit easier, we're going to have some animal friends join us. [Jessi holds Hazel, a Netherland Dwarf Rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus]

[Animal Wonders intro]

 Defining Quality of Life

All animals deserve a good quality of life, but what is quality of life? Well, there are 3 criteria: 
1. They're eating good food, 
2. They're mobile and pain-free, and
3. They're engaging in normal behaviors.

So when something happens to an animal and they can no longer meet the 3 criteria on their own, they need help. This could be medical intervention, like veterinary care, surgeries, and medicine. Or physical intervention, like holding them to eat or go to the bathroom, adjusting food dishes and adding stairs or ramps. Or dietary changes, like softening their food, eliminating ingredients, or adding supplements. Sometimes, the issue preventing a good quality of life can be taken care of and the animal can continue on living happily. Maybe it's a one-time fix, like having a surgery. Other times, a change in diet is all that's needed. But sometimes the issue isn't easy to fix and the problem will only continue to get worse with time. Some examples of this are old age or a terminal illness. For these cases, it's important to be able to look at the animal's living situation and asses if it's good enough or if it's time to consider humanely euthanizing them. I know it's not a fun thing to think about and it can be very hard to make that final decision. To help you prepare for the future, I recommend that you have a conversation with your veterinarian about the animal lin your care. If you have a dog or cat going through some hard times, there are also a few online resources where you can assess their overall health and quality of life, and I've put a couple of those links below. If the animal you're caring for is not a dog or cat, there are fewer resources, so you need to go back to the three criteria for quality of life:

1. Good Food: are they able to eat a normal amount of nutritious food?
2. Mobile and Pain Free: are they moving around on their own and can their pain be managed? And if they do need assistance to move, are their needs able to be reasonably met by their caretaker? 
3. Engaging in Normal Behaviors: every animal is an individual and will have their own personalities and behaviors that are uniquely their own, so this criteria is going to have some wiggle room and it will end up being a judgment call based on them as an individual. So, are they playing, grooming, and vocalizing similar to how others of their species would, or similar to how they behaved before they got sick?

If you answered no to any of these three quality of life criteria, you should talk with your veterinarian about your pet's end of life care. If you're struggling with knowing your animal companion is nearing the end of their life, please know that there are so many of us who have walked this path, and you're not alone. I care about you and the animal that you love. When I think of how sad I am when I've made the decision to humanely euthanize an animal that I've loved and care for, I often think back on their life and take a walk down memory lane. I remember how much fun they had playing with toys, how much they enjoyed the adventures we had, and that they passed away knowing someone loved them very much. And now, I'd like to share a few of my animal friends who are very very loved, but their quality of life is being challenged by an untreatable diagnosis. 

 Gizmo the Sugar Glider

Gizmo the sugar glider is at least 13 years old. We adopted him when he was said to be 2. He's had a wonderful full of adventures and the best friends a little possum could ask for. Gizmo isn't sick. He's just really old and his body isn't working as well as it used to. We've been managing his chronic pain due to arthritis for over a year and he was doing fine with all the other criteria. He was still enthusiastic about food, he was moving around (though a bit slower than he was as a youngun), and he was still jumping around with his buddy Gadget and running on his wheel. Recently though, he stopped running on his wheel and he's having trouble holding on to his branches and eating his food out of his bowl. This is a major concern because he's unable to engage in some of the activities that he enjoys the most. Gizmo's health has been overseen by our vet the entire time, and with this change in his behavior and abilities, he'll be seen by our vet again to discuss his quality of life. When you're seeing a gradual decline in quality of life, a good thing you can do is to make a calendar and mark down good days and bad days. If they're having more bad days than good days, that's when you need to go see your vet. 

All right Gizmo, we're gonna go back to sleep.

 Archie the Amazon Parrot

Another one of our friends, Archie the Amazon parrot, is also part of our talk today because he's been diagnosed with an untreatable disease. He has a very large tumor growing in his liver. The growth has caused him to have increased difficulty breathing and has reduced his ability to fight off other illnesses like respiratory infections. We've been managing his symptoms by giving him antibiotic medications to treat the respiratory infections, nebulizer treatments, and supplements that increase liver function. The treatments have increased his quality of life and allowed him to engage in many of the activities he enjoys. When we assess his quality of life, we can see he's still eating enthusiastically - he loves his treats! Hes also able to move around on his perches and he's not in pain. And he's still excited to come out and have training sessions with his favourite human, Taylor. But we know the tumor is going to continue to get larger and there's nothing we can do to stop it. So we will continue to give him the best life we can and pay close attention to his quality of life. If he stops eating, doesn't want to move around anymore due to discomfort, or stops wanting to engage with Taylor, then we know he's not happy anymore and we need to love him enough to let him go peacefully.


I know this topic isn't a fun one, but it's part of caring for living beings. Animals don't live forever and that's okay; it just makes it that much more important to give them a great life full of good food, exciting toys and adventures, excellent company (or comfortable solitude, depending on how social the species is), and lots and lots of love! I hope you and your loved ones are feeling my love today. I made this episode just for you! And if you'd like to continue on this adventure with me, the animals, and the rest of the team here at Animal Wonders, don't forget to subscribe. And if you'd like to help us continue making educational videos, you can join our community at, where your monthly pledge keeps us going. Thanks, and we'll see you next week! 

[Animal Wonders outro]