How To Determine Your Senior Newfoundland’s Quality Of Life


July 12, 2019

Sherman’s and Leroy’s quality of life is something that I’m highly conscious of on a daily basis. 

If you ask my husband he would probably say that I’m too conscious of it. 

I want them to have the best possible life for as long as they can without suffering. 

When you’re dealing with a giant breed dog that sounds a lot easier than it is. 

Watching Leroy suffer through his bouts with IBD the last several years has not been easy.

Watching him go from a strong, healthy dog down to a weak, anorexic dog that could barely hold his own weight made my heart ache.

There were many times that I probably could have said that his quality of life was poor.

Sherman has been holding his own up until this last year. 

He slows down every day and I watch his legs get weaker. 

Getting up is almost a daily struggle.

He stopped coming upstairs last month. 

He’s been struggling for months with them but we’ve been able to help him get up, except for those times he was trying to come in the middle of the night. 

On those nights he would try to come up, fail and slide down the stairs. 

I decided that Sherman needed to not have access to the stairs while we were sleeping so if he was upstairs the door to downstairs would be closed. 

If he was downstairs then I would put a baby gate up to block the stairs. Since it’s summer Sherman chose to stay downstairs where it’s cooler.

This is the best for him because it’s a lot cooler down there in the summer and it means he has easier access to outside. 

It makes us both sad because Sherman likes to be where I am and I like to be where Sherman is. 

We’ve compromised and I spend a lot more time downstairs in sweatpants and a sweatshirt and on cooler days we bring him up from the ramp outside in the front. 

His quality of life is definitely not what it used to be but I believe there is still quality to be had. 

End of life decisions for our Newfies are never easy and not a topic we like to discuss. 

It hurts to think about and no matter how we prepare ourselves for it you can’t prepare for that amount of pain in your heart. 

During my years assisting pets crossing the rainbow bridge I’ve seen the ones where the suffering went on a little too long because the owner wasn’t able to see it themselves. 

It’s heartbreaking and I vowed to never let one of my dogs endure that pain in exchange for my terms of acceptance.

But yet I still find myself question the quality of life a lot these days and referring to the HHHHHMM Scale. 

The HHHHHMM Quality of Life Scale was developed by Dr. Alice Villalobos. This scale sets guidelines that owners and veterinarians can use to determine their pet’s quality of life when they’re not able to on their own.

It’s a great tool for many pet owners including myself when they have a senior dog that is either ill or wearing out due to old age.

What Type Of Illnesses Can Newfoundland Owners Use The HHHHHMM Quality of Life Scale For?

Most senior Newfies will develop one or more medical conditions that will get worse over time.

Examples of chronic medical conditions common in the older Newfoundland dog may include:

  • Arthritis, OCD, Hip & Elbow Dysplasia
  • Degenerative Myelopathy.
  • SAS 
  • DCM
  • Cancer
  • Megaesophagus
  • Epilepsy
  • Kidney failure
  • Laryngeal paralysis
  • Dementia

See Common Health Problems Seen In The Newfoundland

using the quality oflife scale for your senior Newfoundland dog

using the quality oflife scale for your senior Newfoundland dog

The HHHHHMM Quality of Life Scale

(0=Poor, 10=Excellent)

(35 points or greater is considered to be an acceptable quality of life for most pets)

Hurt— Score 0-10

Hurt. Adequate pain control, including the ability to breathe properly, is extremely important.

Most pet owners do not know that being able to breathe is ranked as an important pain management strategy.

A dog may benefit from receiving oxygen at home, and it may not be as challenging to provide as you think. Other methods of controlling pain may include oral or injectable medication.

Pain control may include oral, transdermal and injectable medications and be given preemptively.

Hunger— Score 0-10

If a dog cannot eat properly or willingly, first try hand-feeding.

If this is not successful, then it may be the time to consider a feeding tube, particularly if oral medication must be given.

Blended or liquid diets may work for some pets too

Malnutrition develops quickly in sick animals when the caretaker is not educated enough to know how much their pet needs to eat to maintain body weight. 

Many pets will live much longer if offered wholesome, flavorful foods that are varied. 

Hydration—Score 0-10

Is the pet dehydrated? For patients not drinking enough water, use subcutaneous fluids daily or twice daily to supplement fluid intake

This helpful procedure saves owners a lot of money and keeps the pet on a much healthier status.

Giving SQ fluids can make a huge difference in the quality of life.

You can also try to get your dog to drink more water by making sure their water is accessible, add safe flavoring to their water and offering crushed or cubed ice.

Hygiene—Score 0-10

Good Hygiene is a must!

Can the pet be kept brushed and cleaned?

Is the coat matted? Is the pet situated properly so that it won’t have to lie in its own soil after eliminations? 

It is also important to turn bedridden pets regularly, keep them clean and dry, and ensure that they have adequate padding underneath to prevent pressure sores.

Happiness— Score 0-10

Happiness is important for both caregiver and receiver.

Is the pet able to experience any joy or mental stimulation? It is easy to see that our pets communicate with their eyes.

They know what is going on via their senses and mental telepathy.

Is the ailing pet willing to interact with the family and be responsive to things going on around him?

Can the ailing pet enjoy the upbeat greetings and petting of loving family members?

Can the pet’s bed be moved close to the family’s activities and not left in an isolated or neglected area? Is the pet depressed, lonely, anxious, bored or afraid? Do you have a routine fun time that the pet looks forward to?

Mobility— Score 0-10.

Mobility is relative.

Ask, is the pet able to get up and move around enough to satisfy normal desires? Does the pet feel like going out for a walk? Is the pet showing CNS signs, seizures or stumbling? Can the pet be taken outdoors to eliminate?

Will a harness, a sling, or cart help? Is medication helping?

More Good Days Than Bad Days— Score 0-10

Ask if there are more good days than bad days.

When there are too many bad days in a row, (or if the pet seems to be “turned off” to life), the quality of life is too compromised.

Bad days are those filled with undesirable experiences such as: vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, frustration, falling down, seizures, etc.

Bad days could be from a condition that worsens such as: cancer cachexia or the profound weakness from anemia, or from the discomfort caused by gradual tumor pressure or obstruction or a large, inoperable tumor in the abdomen.

When I go through and grade Sherman the score I got was 57 out of 70.

His appetite has decreased some, his mobility is decreasing and we’ve increased his pain meds. 

I’ve started keeping a calendar of Sherman’s good days and bad days. 

So far the good days are definitely outweighing the bad days.

He has maybe one bad day a week but this past week he had 2 bad days but is rebounding nicely to some tweaks we made with his medication and routine. 

Tips On Using The Scale

Complete the scale at different times of the day to note fluctuations, because most pets do better during the day and worse at night.

Ask multiple family members to complete the scale and compare their observations.

I asked my husband to do this last week with Sherman and he came up with a score of 55 so we’re pretty close to observing the same things.

My husband is great when it comes to keeping me in check with both Sherman and Leroy and I’m confident that if my judgment is cloudy he will be their advocate. 

He allows me to talk out my concerns and he’s very honest with me so having someone that will listen to your concerns is a plus. 

Take periodic photos of the pet to help remember his or her physical appearance. I try to take daily photos of Sherman

Try not to spend all of your time worrying about this.

Depending on your dog’s condition set up weekly or monthly checks to see how they’re doing and spend the rest of the time enjoying them.

The scale is not an end all be all but it is a great tool to have for most people.

Are There Ways To Improve Your Dog’s Quality of Life? 

That will greatly vary from dog to dog and the condition that they are suffering from. 

Additional pains meds and additional ways of controlling pain that your dog is experiencing is always an option. 

Products that can help your dog’s mobility can be added for pets that are struggling to walk. 

Simple things such as spending more time with your dog can greatly lift their mood. 

Heroic steps are always up to the owner and how far they are willing to go to prolong their dog’s life. However, no dog’s life should be prolonged with more pain and suffering just to make the owner feel better. 

How will I know it’s the right time to let my Newfie go?

There’s never a right time but keep in mind that a healthy human-animal bond requires a two-way exchange, and when that exchange is gone, the time has come.

It is important to plan for the end of life before that time arrives, and the quality-of-life scale can help with that planning.

You can help your dog maintain a good day-to-day life experience by using this scale to regularly measure the parameters that evaluate how well your dog’s basic needs are being met.

I always like to think that it’s better to let them go a little too early than a little too late and that letting them go peacefully and painlessly is the very last gift that we can give to them. 

I’ve made a printable chart below for those that are interested in using the Quality of Life Scale. 

Quality Of Life Scale

Yield: 1

Active Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

The quality of life scale can help you determine how well your senior Newfoundland dog is doing.

Instructions

    The HHHHHMM Quality of Life Scale

    (0=unacceptable, 10=Excellent)

    (35 points or greater is considered to be an acceptable quality of life for most pets)

    Hurt— Score __

    Hurt. Adequate pain control, including the ability to breathe properly, is extremely important.

    Are they crying because of pain?

    Hunger— Score __

    Is your dog eating?

    Have they slowed down on eating?

    If a dog cannot eat properly or willingly, first try hand-feeding.

    Hydration—Score __

    Is the pet dehydrated? Do the skin test to check.

    Are they drinking water?

    Is the water easily accessible?

    Hygiene—Score __

    Good Hygiene is a must!

    Can the pet be kept brushed and cleaned?

    Is the coat matted? Is the pet situated properly so that it won’t have to lie in its own soil after eliminations? 

    Happiness— Score __

    Happiness is important for both you and your dog.

    Is the pet able to experience any joy or mental stimulation? It is easy to see that our pets communicate with their eyes.

    They know what is going on via their senses and mental telepathy.

    Is the ailing pet willing to interact with the family and be responsive to things going on around him?

    Can the ailing pet enjoy the upbeat greetings and petting of loving family members?

    Can the pet’s bed be moved close to the family’s activities and not left in an isolated or neglected area?

    Is the pet depressed, lonely, anxious, bored or afraid?

    Do you have a routine fun time that the pet looks forward to?

    Mobility— Score __

    Mobility is relative.

    Is the pet able to get up and move around enough to satisfy normal desires?

    Does the pet feel like going out for a walk? Is the pet showing CNS signs, seizures or stumbling?

    Can the pet be taken outdoors to eliminate with assistance?

    Will a harness, a sling, or cart help?

    Is medication helping?

    More Good Days Than Bad Days- Good days-__ Bad days __

    Ask if there are more good days than bad days.

    When there are too many bad days in a row, (or if the pet seems to be “turned off” to life), the quality of life is too compromised. Bad days are those filled with undesirable experiences such as: vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, frustration, falling down, seizures, etc.

    Bad Days=

    Good Days=

Notes

Total Score:

Good Days:

Bad Days:

Additional notes about your dog’s condition

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SOURCE: https://mybrownnewfies.com/2019/07/12/how-to-determine-your-senior-newfoundlands-quality-of-life/