Quality of Life

You have probably heard the term “quality of life” spoken by your veterinarian or others close to you and your pet. This can be very subjective terminology and is highly dependent on the disease process your dog or cat is experiencing your pet’s personality and your personal beliefs.

Just like humans, every pet will experience and react to changes in their body differently. This is also highly dependent on the disease process at hand, which is why in-depth discussions with your regular veterinarian are so important. For example, the decision to euthanize a Yorkie with congestive heart failure will need to be made before painful symptoms (such as difficulty breathing) arise. Alternatively, an older Labrador with arthritis can be maintained at home with adequate pain management for an extended amount of time. It’s important to understand the disease process your pet is experiencing in order to properly evaluate the quality of life.

Resources from our friends at Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice.

Click here to download a printable quality of life calendar.

Click here to download a quality of life scale.

End-of-life and Grief Counseling

The University of Tennessee’s Veterinary Social Work Program offers 4, 30 minute FREE counseling sessions for clients of pets going through end-of-life or grief after the loss of a beloved pet

Contact information:

Call: (865) 755-8839

Website: https://vetsocialwork.utk.edu/pet-loss-support-group-2/

Pet Loss Partners Chat

Pet Loss Partners offers a free chat room on Thursdays at 8 pm EST, 7 pm CST, 6 pm MST, 5 pm PST.
These chats are facilitated by trained pet loss specialists, and there are also virtual pet loss support groups available.
Please watch this video excerpt from our friend, Dr. Dani McVety explaining the questions pet owners have during the end of life experience:

Below is a list of some of the most common factors that are taken into consideration when determining and evaluating the quality of life of your pet and what roles they play in the difficult decision for euthanasia.

Pets typically do not externalize pain the same way humans do but they do experience it. With this understanding, it’s important to realize that when pets do show us outward displays of pain, we should be reaching for strong medications like opioids, not just anti-inflammatories. If you’re interested in a much more in-depth look at pain in pets, pick up Dr. Temple Grandin’s book Animals in Translation and read Chapter 5 “Pain and Suffering.”

Common signs of pain in cats and dogs: Pacing, excessive panting, hiding in unique areas, not seeking interaction with family, growling, snarling, snapping, immobility, whining, not eating, flinching when touched.

Many pet owners feel terribly guilty over the natural annoyance they feel when their pet becomes incontinent. This is normal; keep in mind pets do not like to “soil their den” and as a result, may experience anxiety which may be visible by increased panting or appearing uncomfortable. If left unkempt incontinence can lead to bed sores and eventually systemic infection in severe cases.
If you have been an earnest observer of your pet’s behavior and attitude during his or her lifetime, you will be the best at determining when they no longer seem “happy.” You’ll know when they no longer enjoy food, toys, or the environment around them. Most of all, they no longer enjoy or seek out contact with you and the rest of its family. Most pets are tremendously easy to please, so when it no longer becomes possible to raise a purr or a tail-wag, you should be considering what kind of quality of life your pet is experiencing.
What about a natural death?
Yes, there are those pets that peacefully fall asleep and pass naturally on their own, but just as in humans, this type of peaceful death is rare. Many owners fear their pet passing alone while others do not. Occasionally we are asked to help families through the natural dying process with their pet. For different reasons, these families are against euthanasia. We explain everything we possibly can, from how a natural death may look, how long it may take, what their pet may experience, etc. Inevitably, almost all of these families regret doing this. Most of them comment afterward “I wish I would not have done that, I wish she didn’t have to suffer.” A natural death can be difficult to watch, especially for non-medically oriented people. Most people can watch a human family member in pain much more easily than they can their pet. To an extent, we can talk to other humans through physical pain or discomfort, but there is no comforting a pet that is suffering. Families take this guilt difficultly and we do our very best to not only readily suggest euthanasia when appropriate, but prepare families for a “worst-case” scenario should they chose to wait. (Of course, death is nothing to be fearful of and if your pet does happen to pass on his or her own, it is certainly not a bad thing; it happens in nature frequently!)
Human hospice has a saying “food and water are for the living.” Pets can physiologically survive for many days without food and water, although the lack of appetite or thirst can be a sign that the body has begun shutting down. Appetite stimulants can sometimes help restore the appetite for a certain period of time. Talk with your veterinarian for more information. Also, keep in mind that some pets may never lose their desire to eat. In many cases, appetite can be a good indication of the internal function (or dysfunction) of the pet.
Arthritis and mobility issues are common as our pets age. Usually, these signs first become evident at night when the pet begins to pace around the house. It may progress to falling, unable to stand, unable to urinate/defecate, and panting heavily. During the later stages, you may find your pet very anxious. As they (usually dogs) begin to understand that they cannot get up and down on their own accord, their natural anxiety level rises as they start to feel like “prey” instead of being the predator. They can no longer protect their family as they once did. When anti-inflammatories and other medications cease to work, quality of life should be a concern.
Waiting Too Long
The more times families experience the loss of a pet, the sooner they make the decision to euthanize. Pet parents experiencing the decline or terminal illness of a pet for the first time will generally wait until the very end to make that difficult decision. They are fearful of doing it too soon and giving up without a good fight. Afterward, however, most regret waiting too long. They reflect back on the past days, weeks, or months, and feel guilty for putting their pet through those numerous trips to the vet or uncomfortable medical procedures that did not improve their pet’s quality of life. The next time they witness the decline of a pet, they are much more likely to make the decision at the beginning of the decline instead of the end.
Weigh Your Options Carefully
If the most important thing to you is waiting until the last possible minute to say goodbye to your baby, you will most likely be facing an emergency, stress-filled, suffering condition for your pet. It may not be peaceful and you may regret waiting too long. If a peaceful, calm, loving, family-oriented end of life experience is what you wish for your pet, then you will probably need to make the decision a little sooner than you want. Making that decision should not be about ceasing any suffering that has already occurred, but about preventing suffering from occurring in the first place. Above all, our pets do not deserve to hurt.

We are here to help make this time a bit easier on everyone. We are aimed at maintaining comfort, quality of life, and the human-animal bond for as long as needed; we are here for you!

We understand that caring for a sick or geriatric pet can be stressful and provides many unique challenges. The team at Pet Caregiver Burden offer helpful advice on caring for yourself while also caring for your pets.

Click here to learn more.

End of Life Services and the Serenity Garden

It’s never easy when it comes time to say goodbye to our beloved pets, and in the current situation, we know many families have struggled to say goodbye in unfamiliar circumstances.

The Serenity Garden at Lake Road Animal Hospital is a private, quiet, outdoor space where the family can gather when it comes time to bid farewell to a furry family member. We do ask that all members present wear a mask covering their mouth and nose, but there is no limit on the number of individuals who may be present to say goodbye to a cherished pet in the Serenity Garden.

When your pet arrives for this appointment, they will be brought inside the hospital for placement of an IV catheter. They may receive a sedation medication at this time to aid in their comfort but will be returned to you before any additional medications are administered.

Caring people who care for pets.


3065 Lake Rd
Horseheads, New York, 14845
Click here for directions.


Mon: 8:00 am – 6:00 pm
Tue: 8:00 am – 6:00 pm
Wed: 8:00 am – 6:00 pm
Thur: 8:00 am – 6:00 pm
Fri: 8:00 am – 6:00 pm
Sat: 8:00 am – 1:00 pm

Contact & Connect

Phone (call or text): 607-733-6503
Fax: 607-733-3656
Email: [email protected]

Directions from Corning:
  • Take 17/86 east towards Binghamton
  • Take Exit 53 (Horseheads) exit and stay to the right
  • Go through two lights, and at the third light take a right onto South Main, this turns in to Lake Road
  • The hospital is ~1.5 mile on the right
Directions from Elmira – local roads:
  • Take Church St. or Water St.to the Madison Ave Bridge
  • Take a left on to Madison Ave, this turns in to Lake St, and then to Lake Rd.
  • Follow Lake St. to Lake Rd. past Curly’s Chicken, the hospital is ~1/2 mile on the left
Directions from Elmira – highway:
  • Take 17/86 West towards Horseheads/Corning
  • Take Exit 54 towards Horseheads/Rt 13
  • Stay to the left to exit towards Horseheads
  • At the light, take a left on to South Main which turns in to Lake Road
  • The hospital is ~1.5 mile on the right
Leave us a message!
If you have a quick question or request, you can complete the form below to leave a message for our team. We will get back to you as quickly as possible. If you need immediate assistance, please call our team directly at 607-733-6503.