Sunday, October 27, 2013

How do I know if I should put my cat to sleep?

by Amanda L. Maus DVM

Catalina Pet Hospital

Tucson, AZ

Euthanasia is a topic that can be difficult to discuss due to the deep feelings most pet owners have for their cats.  Choosing to euthanize your feline in a humane way, when they are no longer able to participate or enjoy life properly, can be a tough but kind decision that is our responsibility as a pet owner.  Your veterinarian can be very helpful in discussing the quality of life your pet has based on their known illnesses, current symptoms, and changes in behavior.  Some changes in quality of life indicators can be treated with medications or certain lifestyle changes while you determine the final decisions regarding your pet. 

Let's look at a list of factors regarding your cat's quality of life:
  • Pain
  • Appetite
  • Hydration
  • Mobility
  • Breathing
  • Mood/Interactions
  • Urination/Defecation
  • Lethargy
  • Hygiene
  • More Good Days Than Bad

Pain can be difficult to assess in cats since they are programed to be solitary hunting creatures that hide illnesses and pain.  Any cat crying, growling, or hissing because of pain has an unacceptable and severe pain level that needs addressed immediately.  Signs of less severe pain can include hiding, changes in normal habits such as less jumping, scruffy appearance, lethargy, or decreased appetite.

Appetite changes are very important in cats. Are they eating a normal amount of their regular food?  Are you enticing them to eat with special foods?

Dehydration can occur even in cats who seem to be drinking a normal or increased amount of water if their bodily organs are not working properly.  Dehydration can cause dry gums, sunken eyes, and/or increased skin turgor.

Changes in mobility are subtle in the beginning.  At first, a cat may sit in front of an object they want to jump onto for a few moments before they complete the jump.  Some cats may stop using the litterbox if it has high sides.  Eventually, limping or even wobbling may be seen.

Abnormal breathing can indicate stress, pain, or diseases affecting the lungs.  When you watch your cat breathe, how many breaths per minute do you count?  Does your cat's nostrils flare as they breathe?  Are they open mouth breathing or panting at times?

Mood changes can affect how your cat interacts with you and other household members.  Does your cat appreciate being petted?  If your cat grumpier with household members than usual?  Is your cat seeking less attention?

Changes in urination and defecation can be very problematic.  Is your cat urinating at least once daily?  Is your cat defecating daily?  Is the feces hard or diarrhea in consistency?  Is your cat using their litterbox?

Lethargy in the cat can include increased duration of sleeping, not greeting you like usual, not coming out to eat, and not moving to their usual locations throughout the day.

Changes in hygiene usually involve lack of grooming and a scruffy appearance.  Fur matting can be uncomfortable and lead to skin infections.

Finally, looking at all of the above factors, does your cat have more good days than bad? 

No comments:

Post a Comment