How Do You Measure Quality of Life in a Sick Pet?

When your pet is diagnosed with a life threatening (or potentially fatal) disease, your first instinctive response may be “how long does she have?” What you’re really asking, though, isn’t a question of actual time. If the answer you receive is that your dog or cat could live another year, but it will be filled with pain, discomfort and little in the way of quality of life, how likely are you to want her to go through that?

What pet owners really want to know is the answer to a tougher question: what are we looking at in terms of quality of life? This is never more important than in the realm of heart disease. Now, scientists at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University have developed surveys that can evaluate the quality of life for both cats and dogs diagnosed with heart disease. FETCH for dogs (Functional Evaluation of Cardiac Health) and CATCH (Cats’ Assessment Tool for Cardiac Health) will help pet owners and veterinarians in making crucial decisions for further treatment.


Researchers found that the FETCH and CATCH scores correlated well to the International Small Animal Cardiac Health Council (ISACHC) classification for disease severity.  Results of the CATCH evaluation were published in the May 15 edition of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, building on the earlier publication of the FETCH study.

“Studies have indicated that pet owners value quality of life much more than longevity in their animals,” said Professor of Clinical Sciences Lisa M. Freeman, board-certified by the American College of Veterinary Nutrition . “We want our dogs and cats to have happy lives, and we believe this tool is a helpful in evaluating whether our pets still do.”

In some ways, this will create a measure for medical assessment and care of our pets that doesn’t yet exist for people!

Photo credit: from flickr by davco900

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