Quality of Life


Managing a pet’s quality of life is a difficult subject I have to discuss with clients frequently in my profession. 

Two questions every pet owner has when they’re faced with decisions about their pet’s life is:

  1. “How do I know this is the right time?”

  2. “Am I making the right decision?”

These are tough questions for clients to ask, and, for me as a veterinarian, to answer.

I recently visited a longtime friend and her family.  Before I was set to go I got a text message from my friend requesting a favor.  When we connected over the phone, I learned that their family dog, Leo, which I knew and loved, was not doing well.  He was 17 years old and visibly uncomfortable enough to alarm the family.  

Before I recommend putting someone’s pet down, I go through the three As with them:

  • Attitude

  • Appetite

  • Activity


I learned the three As from my mentor many years ago and have applied them throughout my veterinary career.  The three As help us measure our beloved pet’s quality of life in their final days or during a severe illness or trauma.  If two of these three things are not there, it helps me decide if putting that animal down is the absolute best decision.

I proceeded to go through these steps with my friend.  After much discussion the family decided that it was time.  Leo had an amazing 17 years of chasing squirrels in the yard, chasing kids around and being the friendliest guard dog in the neighborhood.  

Leo was loved for many years and was given a wonderful home, but it was time to end his suffering. 

When I arrived at my friend’s home, we all gathered around and each shared fond memories of Leo.   It is amazing how much love and joy our pets can bring us.  

As I stood their surrounded by what I consider my second family, I began to think about God’s hand in all of this.  God knew what he was doing when he created a dog.  He created them to love us unconditionally, never holding a grudge, always welcoming us and expecting nothing in return.   Maybe this is another way that God shows His love to us.

My only complaint is that He didn’t make them live as long as we do!!!


My job can be tough, especially on days like this one. No one likes this part of the job. However, I was glad that God has gifted me with the ability to provide comfort and compassion during Leo’s last few moments here on earth. 

I believe we will see our beloved pets again and look forward to that day.