Pet Tips

Euthanasia and the HHHHHMM Scale – Pet tip 228

Saying goodbye to a pet that is suffering or is terminally ill is one of the most difficult things a pet lover will ever go through. Many pet owners simply think of their pets as family members and when family members lose their quality of life, it’s a devastating experience for the other members of the family. The experience of watching a pet deteriorate (either naturally or from a specific disease or ailment) to the point where death is near is excruciatingly difficult. There is however, the humane choice of euthanasia when it comes to pets. The issue that pet-lovers struggle with though, is when is the right time? Although the answer will be a personal one that should be discussed with a veterinarian, there are guides that can help us make the decision as to when to euthanize a pet. One such guide is called the HHHHHMM scale developed by Alice Villalobos DVM.

The HHHHHMM scale stands for; hurt, hunger, hydration, hygiene, happiness, mobility and more good days than bad. This scale is a good starting point for deciding how good your pet’s quality of life is. An adapted scale has also been created to score each of the ‘H’s’ and ‘M’s’ from one to ten. The sum total of 35 or more suggests an acceptable quality of life. For the first ‘H’ or hurt, you’d need to rate how much pain your pet is in on a scale from 1-10 where 1 means your pet is suffering badly. In order to come up with your particular number, you’d need to evaluate if your pet’s pain level is adequately managed. Breathing is a key part of the final number as difficulty in breathing is very painful for a pet.

Hunger is the next ‘H’ on the list and you’d need to rate if your pet is eating enough on a scale from 1-10 where 10 means the pet is eating enough. You’d want to take factors like is my pet eating on its own or needs to be force-fed or tube-fed into account. Hydration is the next ‘H’ to rate where 1 is dehydrated and 10 is properly hydrated. You’ll likely need your vet’s guidance to rate your pet’s hydration level. Hygiene is next and includes factors like if your pet can still eliminate properly or does it lie in its own waste. What is the condition of the pet’s fur? Can the pet still groom itself? Will the pet tolerate being brushed and cleaned? Happiness is the final ‘H’ and is pretty straightforward. On a scale of 1-10 how happy is your pet where 10 is really happy. Factors to consider are how responsive the pet is to toys, activities and family members. Does the pet still interact with the family or is it lonely, isolated and depressed?

The ‘M’s’ are next and the first one is mobility. Can your pet move around easily or does it require assistance? If it requires assistance, does it accept it or reject it? If you have a dog is it still interested in walks? The final M refers to more good days than bad where 10 means the pet’s days are good overall despite any of the other H’s and M’s. A low number means the pet has frequent bad days in a row where it suffers from undesirable things like vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, nausea, weakness or pain.

Although this guide is useful in assessing your pet’s quality of life, decisions involving euthanasia should always be made with other family members and with your veterinarian’s input.

© 2010

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