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Measuring a pet's quality of life

Older dogs can be difficult to figure out

Older dogs can be difficult to figure out when they have pain.  Credit: iStock

Q About two years ago, I started fostering a dog for hospice, a 15- to- 17-year-old miniature pinscher mix. She had a large tumor, arthritis and trouble walking. I believed she needed pain medication, so I took her to my vet. After medication, proper diet and such, she was doing well until three weeks ago when she became more lethargic. Her bloodwork came back great, so my vet suggested a quality-of-life scale. The scale is on the Lap of Love website ( I have used both of the scales offered. I prefer the "Pet's Quality of Life Scale," which offers a family concerns page. I like this scale as it offers a more detailed scale rather than a "good day" or "bad day." I also was able to evaluate that she is more lethargic when temperatures in Las Vegas become 105 degrees or higher. I should mention that I adopted her shortly after that initial vet visit. I used the scale for a couple weeks getting a baseline for her and check her every few weeks. You may have another quality-of-life scale. I had not seen one like this before, but it may help pet owners when necessary.

— Marcee S., Las Vegas

A In all my years standing before a veterinarian discussing and agonizing over whether it was time to euthanize a dog or cat, no one has ever directed me to a quality-of-life website that had scoring tools. What a great resource for pet owners who are trying to make the ultimate decision on behalf of their dogs and cats, or who just want to monitor their pets during a serious illness.

As soon as I read your letter, I dashed off an email to Pat from Smithtown, who had asked me in a recent column what she should do with her aging 14-year-old Lab. I am sure this will help her and other readers in the same situation determine whether their pets are just having a good or bad day, or if they are declining in all areas. Thanks for sharing.

Q I have two 1-year-old dogs who have been housebroken. I have a doggy door so they can go out whenever they want, but they still pee in the house sometimes. I don't understand why they would do that, and I don't know how to stop it. It would be very difficult to try to go back to the basics. Do you have any thoughts on the subject?

— Judi, Oakland Park, Florida

A It can be difficult to re-housetrain a dog if you are not home a lot, but that is exactly what needs to happen for both of them. Get an enzymatic cleaner at the pet store or online to clean up any accidents in the home. An enzymatic cleaner removes all traces of the offense to keep the dog from peeing or pooping in the same area.

Next, take them outside after they wake up, after they eat and after they play. Tell them to "go potty." When they begin peeing and pooping, repeat the phrase and give them a reward word to let them know you approve, like "Go potty … Bingo!" Give each dog his or her own reward word so they learn who you are talking to and give each one a training treat immediately after they relieve themselves. If they get a treat every time they go outside to relieve themselves and none in the house, they will eventually realize peeing and pooping inside don't have any rewards.

Be patient and diligent as this could take several weeks.

Q Sometimes my small dog, a dachshund mix, will pull her blanket over her dog food bowl while continuing to eat. What gives?

— Gary, Las Vegas

A Sometimes, dogs do the oddest things, and we don't always know the meaning of their seemingly random behaviors. But when I see unusual behaviors, I know a dog is thinking and trying to solve a problem. In this case, your little girl might be protecting her food from "predators" or indicating she likes to eat in private.

Whatever you do, don't move the bowl to a more private location. She has solved whatever problem she had and will likely repeat the behavior no matter where the bowl is put now. She's a clever girl.

Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.

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