Many times people talk about life quality in pets and pain. “Is my dog in any pain?” is a common question I get at my hospital. To be sure, pain is an important consideration in life quality. Of all the factors that contribute to a bad life, pain may be the most potent. BUT…it is not the only thing that can rob your dog of a good life. To be wise in our estimation of life quality, we must look at a bigger picture.
Assessing life quality is critical. Since this is such a top priority item, I devoted years of my life to putting together Apocaps to help dogs maintain normal life quality, and wrote extensive sections about what you can do at home in The Dog Cancer Survival Guide.
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I have seen many dogs in no “pain” who are miserable. One example is the feeling of being “sick”, “exhausted”, or “nauseated”. Many know the feeling of having food poisoning. Very few would describe it as being “in pain”, but boy can it ruin your waking hours.
How about depression? Immobility? Dizziness? All are negative life experiences.
We need to start looking at negative life experiences, encompassing but not limited to pain. How do we do this? In my upcoming book, I describe a Life Quality Assessment technique using the Joys of Life. Joys of Life are, or course, taken from a dog’s perspective. We must start with all the things that make life positive…the Joys in Life! When these are compromised, life quality drops. We begin with defining your dog’s Joys in Life.
By looking at all of the factors that bring your dog good life experience, you can begin to make an assessment of your dog’s life quality. Start taking some time to define what your dog likes in his or her life. It can be as simple as eating a meal or drinking water. What happens to life quality when dehydration results from a lack of drinking water (the joy of quenching thirst is compromised)? What happens to life quality when your dog loses weight due to loss of appetite (the joy of satisfying hunger is lost)?
Life quality is negatively affected in different ways by different cancers. Pain is one (the joy of being pain-free or comfortable is lost). Osteosarcoma (bone cancer) affects the joy of running and athletics. Bladder cancer (transitional cell carcinoma) affects the joy of being able to eliminate urine comfortably. Lymphosarcoma (one form of white blood cell cancer) can affect any body system. A mast cell tumor can affect the joy of proper digestion.
To assess life quality, define your dog’s Joys in Life. Include everything, from social interactions to mental state to normal bodily functions. In the next post, I will give you a Joy in Life outline that can make this job a little simpler, but start thinking about it now…
Best to All,
Dr. Demian Dressler is internationally recognized as “the dog cancer vet” because of his innovations in the field of dog cancer management, and the popularity of his blog here at Dog Cancer Blog. The owner of South Shore Veterinary Care, a full-service veterinary hospital in Maui, Hawaii, Dr. Dressler studied Animal Physiology and received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of California at Davis before earning his Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Cornell University. After practicing at Killewald Animal Hospital in Amherst, New York, he returned to his home state, Hawaii, to practice at the East Honolulu Pet Hospital before heading home to Maui to open his own hospital. Dr. Dressler consults both dog lovers and veterinary professionals, and is sought after as a speaker on topics ranging from the links between lifestyle choices and disease, nutrition and cancer, and animal ethics. His television appearances include “Ask the Vet” segments on local news programs. He is the author of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Full Spectrum Treatments to Optimize Your Dog’s Life Quality and Longevity. He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Hawaii Veterinary Medical Association, the American Association of Avian Veterinarians, the National Animal Supplement Council and CORE (Comparative Orthopedic Research Evaluation). He is also an advisory board member for Pacific Primate Sanctuary.
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