Determining When It's Time- Quality of Life

Knowing When It’s Time

This is the most common and difficult question asked by pet lovers and caregivers. Unfortunately, there is no perfect answer to this question, as it is highly personal and dependent on not just the pet’s condition, as so many other factors come into consideration when making a decision for euthanasia. Here are some things to consider, tools, and articles that may help navigate you through your pet’s end of life journey:

Write a list of 3 to 5 things your pet likes to do( i.e., sit by the window, greet me at the door, spend time in the yard…). When your pet is no longer able to do these things, it may be time.

List good days and bad days on your calendar. If the bad outweighs the good, it may be time.

Look at photos and videos of your pet from before they were ill. This will help you recognize difficult-to-notice changes and gradual declines.

Factors to Consider:

  • Is he eating?
  • Is he soiling himself?
  • Is she lifting her head to greet me? Wagging her tail?
  • Can he stand on his own?
  • Does she still have the look of joy in her eyes?
  • Is she breathing without difficulty with a resting rate of fewer than 30 breaths per minute?
  • Can I provide all his of needs?
  • Can we adequately manage his pain?

For cats:

Does her body language indicate possible pain? Ex. hanging head, crouched posture, hiding, change in ear position, and squinting eyes.

Knowing When It’s Time to Say Goodbye

Quality Of Life Assessments

The quality of animals’ lives is defined by their overall physical and mental well-being, not just one aspect of their lives. These quality-of-life scales attempt to consider all aspects of your pet’s life. It is important to remember that all pets are different. What may be considered a poor quality of life for one may be different for another.

H5M2 Quality of Life Scale- This scale describes 7 parameters that can be tracked in chronic and progressive diseases: Hunger, Hydration, Hygiene, Hurt, Happiness, Mobility, and More good days than bad.

Each parameter gets a score from 1 – 10, with 0 being unacceptable and 10 being excellent

Scores > 35 = acceptable QOL for pets

Journeys Quality of Life Scale Geared towards your pet’s happiness and sense of wellbeing

Reach out to us if there is a low score on any of the measures

J– Jumping or Mobility
O – Ouch or Pain
U – Uncertainty and Understanding (factors that affect YOU)
R – Respiration and Breathing
N – Neatness or Hygiene
E – Eating and Drinking
Y – You
S– Social Ability

MMVHS Quality of Life Scale

This scale has 14 different categories

Each category is given a score 0-5
Tallied scores/70 = a % QOL Score
QOL scores 0-25% = very poor, 25-50% = poor, 50-75% decreased to good, 75-100% = excellent

Recommendations are also listed in regard to how best to proceed

Home Burial Information

Burying Your Beloved Pet at Home

In Maryland and DC, it is legal to bury a pet on private residential property that you own as long as there are no health hazards or nuisance caused by it. There still could be county, city, or HOA ordinances that supersede this, however. You will need to check your county, city, and community ordinances for restrictions.

To protect human, animal, and environmental health, please follow these guidelines:

  • Euthanized pet remains are poisonous and possibly deadly to other animals who would ingest it.
  • Buried animals must not come in contact with any surface bodies of water or groundwater including inland lakes, streams, rivers, open drains. They must not be located within 200 feet of any stream or groundwater and 500 feet from a well used to supply potable drinking water. A deceased animal may leak body fluids after passing.
  • An adequate depth is 3-5 feet. This is deep enough to prevent other animals investigating the area. At least 2 feet of soil should be on top of the body. If this depth is not attainable, it is important to cover the hole with a large rock or wire to prevent digging by wildlife.
  • Deceased animals should not be buried in sandy soils, black land, rocky soil, flood land or around home foundation.
  • Before digging, call your local utilities office to come mark your yard. There may be gas lines or water lines buried underground.
  • There are many eco-friendly burial wraps and containers available online (such as Sweet Goodbye Cocoon or Cloud® and Euthabag®) or you may simply wrap your loved one in a small blanket, t-shirt, or pillowcase. An urn or box is not necessary unless you have something particular in mind. Avoid any kind of plastics as they can slow down the natural process of absorption back into the earth.
  • Sprinkle about 1 cup of lime powder (calcium hydroxide) at the bottom of the hole and about 1 cup on top. Lime can be purchased at most hardware or livestock feed stores.
  • If you elect to have your pet cremated then buried, using an organic soil mixture along with the cremains will create a nutrient-rich mixture that will benefit the earth and help plants around the burial site flourish. (Burying cremains with no mixture can be too concentrated in carbon to allow for proper growth.)
  • If you need to delay the burial, you may want to place your pet’s body in an airtight plastic container and put your pet in a refrigerator or freezer.

Resources and Grief Support

The Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement (APLB)

The Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement (APLB) is made up of professionally trained volunteers in pet bereavement counselling. They offer online chat rooms for helping with pet loss and anticipatory bereavement.

Baltimore Humane Society

The Baltimore Humane Society Memorial Park holds a monthly bereavement group to help you cope with the loss or extreme illness of a pet. Anyone whose pet has died, who has been lost, or who is ailing/aging is welcome to join the group. The group meets the first Tuesday evening of each month from 7 pm – 9 pm.

The group is a haven where individuals can freely talk about their pets knowing others are interested in hearing their stories. It is a place of emotional and practical support, helping participants cope with their loss. Please join our free, non-denominational group, led by a bereavement counsellor. You do not need to have your pet buried in the Baltimore Humane Society Memorial Park to join the group. All are welcome!

Call 410-833-8848 extension 219 or email to RSVP by the Monday night prior.

LOU: Lifting Others Up- Pet Loss Grief Support Group

Facebook Group
Virtual Group Meetings 3rd Thursday of the month
Contact Karen Klima via Facebook group or 410-925-8587 to RSVP.

Pet Compassion Careline

Complimentary 24/7 Grief Counselor Support 1(855) 245-8214

Cornell University Pet Loss Support Hotline
M-F 5 pm-8 pm, Sat-Sun 11am-8pm
(607) 218-7457

Recommended Reading


  • How To Help A Child Greiving a Beloved Pet
  • The Invisible Leash: A Story Celebrating Love After the Loss of a Pet by Patrice Karst
  • Where Lily Isn’t by Julie Paschkis
  • Saying Goodbye to Your Pet: Children Can Learn to Cope with Pet Loss by Marge Eaton Heegaard
  • When You Have to Say Goodbye, Loving and Letting Go of Your Pet by Monica Mansfield, DVM
  • Saying Goodbye to Lulu by Corinne Demas
  • Stay by Katie Klise
  • Coloring Book for Children



  • Deconstruction/Reconstruction: A Grief Journal for Teens created by The Dougy Center
  • Healing Your Grieving Heart ‘For Teens’: 100 Practical Ideas Dr. Alan Wolfelt



  • How to Take Care of Yourself When Grieving
  • Saying Goodbye to your Angel Animals: Finding Comfort After Losing Your Pet Allen and Linda Anderson
  • Goodbye Friend, Healing Wisdom for Anyone Who Has Ever Lost a Pet Gary Kowalski
  • Saying Goodbye To The Pet You Love: A Complete Resource To Help You Heal Lorri A. Greene, Ph.D. Jacquelyn Landis
  • Facing Farewell – Making The Decision To Euthanize Your Pet Julie Reck, DVM


Celebrate Your Pet's Life/ Donations in Memorium

Celebrate Your Pet’s Life

Memorial Posts

We welcome memorial post requests via our Facebook page. Send your memorials and/ or pet photos to us by direct message or through a recommendation for us to share.

Ways to Remember

  • Conduct a Memorial Service
  • Have a Bubble Release Memorial Service
  • Plant a tree in garden in your pet’s honor
  • Create a shadow box containing your pet’s tags, favorite toy, collar, etc.
  • Save condolence cards or emails from friends and family
  • Create a picture collage, scrapbook, story, or poem about your pet
  • Keep ashes in an urn, or locket
  • Scatter ashes in a place that was special to your pet
  • Journal your pet’s story
  • Donate time, money, or talent in your pet’s honor

Donations of Funds, Items, and Time


REACH Animal Care Program Charitable Donation

AVMF REACH Animal Care Program: Reaching Every Animal with Charitable Healthcare Donations

Through the REACH Care Program 501(c)(3), AVMF aims to break down barriers to veterinary care access. Donations fund grant support to veterinary practices offering veterinary care financial assistance.