Euthanasia – done the humane way? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 9 Old 02-07-2009, 11:48 PM Thread Starter
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Euthanasia – done the humane way?

I recently lost one of my horses. He had to be euthanized due to untreatable colic. His heart rate was up to 100, which was the vets explanation why he reacted fairly violent to the overdoses of anesthesia they gave him to put him to sleep.
I asked them afterwards why they didn’t sedate the horse before giving the deathly drug which would have been – in my thinking – much more humane.
The vet said: “Oh. Sorry,” and looked at me sad, “That’s how we usually do it.”

Is that so? Do you have any experience like that? I always was under the impression that horses are sedated first to avoid a cruel fight.

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post #2 of 9 Old 02-08-2009, 12:08 AM
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I just had my (i took care of her) old girl put down yesterday...very sad... so i feel your pain. Anywho I thought they sedated them but i dont know because i wasnt there when it happened. I would assume so because i heard the vet was able to get Jeannie down to the ground slowly and "pain free" if thats possible and then he put her down. So im not too sure, im sure each vet has there own way of doing things?

The rider casts her heart over the fence, the horse jumps in pursuit of it.
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post #3 of 9 Old 02-08-2009, 02:34 AM
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I've not had to put down a horse yet (thank God) but I stayed with a friend of mine while she had to put her old mare down. I don't think there is a "fight" (the horse doesn't realize he's being euthanized) But if the horse is still standing (as my Friends horse was) when they are injected they tend to drop like a ton of brinks so to speak and it's kind of traumatic, more for the owner than the horse at that point. If possible,if the horse can be laying down and then injected I think it's much better and more peaceful for both horse and owner.

Last edited by Got2Gallop; 02-08-2009 at 02:38 AM.
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post #4 of 9 Old 02-08-2009, 09:18 AM
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Personally I prefer to shoot them much more humane IMO as long as you know how to do it properly. I've seen 5 horses put down with drugs and all 5 died a violent death. One got up and ran through a fence another got up and ran into a tractor.
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post #5 of 9 Old 02-08-2009, 10:02 AM
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I've never had to put a horse down, but I have heard stories from friends. I will have the horse I have now until the day he dies, and if he's euthed, he will be sedated first. That way he'll most likely lay himself down and be too out of it to fight (if he did).

Some horses do fight when they are straight up given the pink stuff. Sure, they don't know they are being euthed, but I'm sure they feel something and they know it's not right. They feel like they need to get away from the situation and that's when all hell can break loose, even for a few seconds.

But, some horses can go down easily without sedation. Just depends.
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post #6 of 9 Old 02-09-2009, 10:46 AM
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Yes, unfortunately the truth is that some horses are going to react to the anesthetic used to euthanize them. This is because when you give a drug to anesthetize anyone (human or animal alike) the body goes through stages and planes of anesthesia---you don't go from fully awake to fully under in one fell swoop. This is because the affects of anesthesia are dose dependent. So in going from awake to anesthetized you go through stages where you are just a little woozy to euphoric to completely anesthetized and some people and animals react more to the euphoric stage than others. And in trying to get past that stage as quickly as possible you dose fast and that also
decreases the time for the body to go from standing easily to laying down--so you don't get a slow careful "going down" in some horses.

So while going down fast and hard may look worse from the outside it actually means that the horse has gone from awake and feeling to completely anesthetized quickly which is safer for the horse and handlers alike.

Cindy D.
Licensed Veterinary Technician
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post #7 of 9 Old 02-09-2009, 10:58 AM
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Cindy, you are a wealth of information and I just wanted to personally thank you for continuing to help up learn more and be better owners.

Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Don't be afraid or discouraged by the size of the task, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.

1 Chronicles 28:20

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post #8 of 9 Old 02-11-2009, 01:29 PM
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The reason many vets will not sedate horses prior to euthanasia is that the drugs used for sedation often slow the heart, and slow down delivery of blood from the heart to the brain. The drug used to euthanase the horse needs to get from where it is injected, through the heart, and to the brain. If this process is slowed down, as can happen with sedation, then not only will it work slower, but it may work incompletely, neither of which is desirable.
In a horse with colic, especially yours which had a very high heart rate, then delivery of blood to the brain will already be slower, so the effect of sedation can be even greater.
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post #9 of 9 Old 02-11-2009, 02:51 PM
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You know it's a case to case basis. The sedation is as it is described given to sedate an agitated or unsettled horse. Not all horses require that extra injection prior to being euthanized.
When they are overdosed on the medication, they don't even know it is happening. Yes they do drop to the ground and it is quite difficult for the owners to see BUT to the horse it never happened as to by that point the hypnotics have already long kicked in. The same thing would happen to humans if we were going thru the same thing. You can compare to us going thru anesthetics-there is a good reason why they lay you down when they give you those meds.

Sorry to hear you went thru this very sad situation. I think it's every horse owner's saddest day. Hope the rest of your day and week gets better, keep your chin up

Promoting the beautiful Canadian Horse
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