Saying Goodbye: Making the right decision for your horse

In one of our previous articles we talked about dealing with the loss of your horse. Sadly, discussing the matter with a veterinarian is part of the process for many horse owners. When their horses no longer feel well or enjoy life, it may be time to consider the process.

Saying goodbye
Saying goodbye is one of the hardest parts of owning a horse*

Euthanasia, which can be defined as, "the final kindness," is never easy to discuss. But, it is usually a humane decision made to minimize our horse's suffering. In several of our blogs, we've touched on the ever increasing length of equine lifespan. While we are fortunate to have advances in health care and nutrition that allow our horses to live much longer, inevitably, our horses pass their prime. Wear and tear on the body, as well as the conditions and diseases that drastically reduce the horse’s quality of life eventually force us to face this rather critical juncture.

Your Horse's Quality of life

A key consideration in evaluating your horse's longevity is determining his “quality of life.” A healthy horse will look alert, eat eagerly, and move without pain. If he requires medication, it should keep his issues under control, with the benefits outweighing any side effects. An older horse may lie down and sleep more often than his younger counterparts. However, if your horse is finding it difficult to stand for long periods or is struggling to pull himself up, it may indicate he is in excessive pain. When your horse reaches the stage that he is not keen to eat, socialize and play with others, it may be a strong indication that he is not enjoying his life. In some circumstances you may find that your horse is suffering with age-related conditions such as: cancers, joint disorders and long term problems such as PPID/Cushings disease. There may come a time where further treatment, whether surgery or medication, may have little effect and could in fact cause more problems such as difficulty in recovering from anesthesia. Your veterinarian will discuss available treatment plans and the probability of any changes to the horse’s current condition. Your vet may not wish to advise you on a specific time to euthanize your horse, opting instead to offer you options while guiding you towards making a humane choice.

Making the decision

If you feel your horse is reaching the stage where you are considering euthanasia, it is a good idea to talk to your veterinarian about the options. If your horse has been having treatment for a chronic condition and he is no longer responding to therapy, your vet will outline the options for ceasing treatment. Euthanasia is not stressful or upsetting for your horse: he will not know what is happening and will drift off to sleep after a small injection. You may opt to remain with your horse during this procedure or to select someone else to assist the veterinarian. Either way, saying goodbye will be quiet, respectful and peaceful for your beloved companion.

Although making the decision to have your horse put to sleep is heart-breaking, we are in the privileged position of allowing our horses a dignified end, one that eliminates their pain and suffering.

If you would like to read more about coping with the loss of your horse, please visit us again at Morgan's Blog.

 *Image courtesy of Dollar Photo Club