Euthanasia Information and Advice? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 16 Old 03-11-2011, 05:59 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: California
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Euthanasia Information and Advice?

Please excuse kind of a depressing topic...

We have a very old gelding whose health has been declining for awhile now and it's pretty clear that it's about his time to go...definitely before next winter, I'm increasingly thinking sooner rather than later. This will be the first time we've had a horse actually die in our care so I'm wondering a bit about it.

We board him at a local stable where he lives in a stall. We're definitely going to need to talk to our BO and vet a bit about this.
My plan is to turn him out in the morning to graze all day until the vet comes, just sit with him and make his last hours nice, and stay with him when it happens.

I've tried to read up a little bit but really have never been through this at all I really need others' experience. I just kind of want to get mentally prepared so that I'll know what we're facing, because I'm probably going to be dealing with most of this. He is my mom's horse and she doesn't think that she can handle things like being present during, etc.

Should we probably try to have it done out away from where other people will be, or do you think that the vet and the...I have no clue what they're called, the people who come to pick up the body, would that be too big of an inconvenience to them if the area it would need to be done in was sort of a ways out? I know of an area that would probably be a good place to do it, calm and away from the people and it does have a sort of road up there and something of a circle to turn in, but I'm not sure if a large rig could turn there. What is the rig usually like? I know that sometimes horses have to be picked up from very odd places, but I don't want to make it unnecessarily complicated for them.
I also think I heard something about it sometimes being kind of hard to schedule getting them out. Is that so? Should this be planned unusually far in advance? We live in California, USA if that is any help.

Is there anything else I should know that one may not normally think of?

Also, anybody for whom it wouldn't be too painful, can you describe how a similar situation to this went for you and your horse?

Thank you so much for any help, Happy Trails

Last edited by rocky pony; 03-11-2011 at 06:01 PM.
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post #2 of 16 Old 03-11-2011, 06:08 PM
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I had to put my gelding Thunder down not too long ago because he broke his leg in the pasture. He was way out in my pasture under a tree and that is where we found him and he was unalble to take another step. He was put down by the vet right there and my husband stood with him, I couldnt do it. I was devestated. They buried him right there the next day and it took them 5 minutes to do so with the huge piece of equipment thing that they used. My husband says it was quick and painless for the horse. Ask me any questions you may have.
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post #3 of 16 Old 03-11-2011, 06:11 PM
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I talked with a vet tech about this back when I was going to tech school. The process is very similar to how they euthanize cats and dogs. My local equine clinic has the owner trailer their horse in to be put down. That way, the vet arranges the transportation of the body which is helpful for the owner. They allow the owner to say goodbye, but they do not allow the owners to be present during the euthanasia, as it can be quite traumatic and disturbing.

If you plan on putting him down at the barn, try to do it away from roads and high traffic areas. Also, make sure that the body can be easily accessed by the company that will ultimately dispose of it. At the farm I used to work at (that frequently got visitors), we usually covered the body up with a large blanket or tarp. Sometimes we would have to wait a few days for the bodies to get picked up, and that was very hard...I would definitely try to arrange a pick up shortly after the horse has been put down.

| Kubie, Appaloosa (RIP) | Patches, Pinto Arabian Pony | Scotch, Paint Quarterhorse |
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post #4 of 16 Old 03-11-2011, 06:38 PM
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I am sorry that you are going through this, if I were you I would call the vet and ask him what to expect.
I imagine your vet would arrange the transportation of the body.

Originally Posted by CharliGirl View Post
They allow the owner to say goodbye, but they do not allow the owners to be present during the euthanasia, as it can be quite traumatic and disturbing.
Our local vet certainly allows the owners to be there. I would find it far more distressing to not be with my animal at that time.
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post #5 of 16 Old 03-11-2011, 08:06 PM
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I'm sorry if this post upsets you a little but it's all true....
First off I am so very sorry you guys have to go through this. It's always sad losing a faithful friend. I was with my friends' horse Peanut when he was being put down. Basically the vet explained what he was doing and let us say goodbye before he injected him. We stood with him the whole time. First he gave him a shot to make him a bit dopey/sleepy and when that took effect he gave him the lethal shot...for legal reasons the vet normally holds the leadrope as the horse can be wobbly or stagger and I've heard of some horses biting or trying to fight the drugs and I imagine that is probably a scary sight so I'm glad it didn't happen with Nutter. Peanut was gone before he hit the ground that's how ready he was to go. Some vets do it differently when they go to the ground...our vet tries as hard as he can to not let them "slam" (sorry thats a bad word to describe it but it's what happens and if you're going to be there with him when he goes just get ready for a slightly loud "boney" thud when his hips hit the ground if that's how he falls) and he holds their head so they as gently as possible lay down... The hips fall and hit first then the rest just kinda follows then our vet gently lays their head down... Some horses go to their knees and lay down like they would be going to sleep but others ~ahem~ just kind of fall (I really don't mean to upset you or scare you or anything I'm just stating what actually happens so you're prepared). The truck is really not too too big where I am from I don't know about your area. I suggest the day before you have him scheduled to be put down you call them and see if they can come about a half hour/45mins after the vet is scheduled to come so that gives time if the vet is running late and so you can say goodbye after everything is over. We don't stand there when they load the horse into the truck we just go to the barn.

Again I am very very very sorry if I upset you or scared you at all I was just trying to tell you the facts and kind of warn you about a few things as I wasn;t warned about anything when I watched him being put down and to be honest when Peanuts hips hit and I heard the noise I sort of cringed and my heart stopped because I wasn't ready for it....I just don't want you to feel the way I did when it happened. If your boy is as ready to go as you make him sound like he is then he will probably go like peanut and be gone before he goes to the ground. It's normally the younger horses that try to fight the drug.(or so I've heard)

Again I am very sorry you have to go through this. and I am very very EXTREMELY sorry if I upset you with this post I was just stating facts and giving you a heads up.

~ Hope is never light years away ~
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post #6 of 16 Old 03-11-2011, 08:30 PM
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We have put many horses down at the clinic and it usually goes fairly easy. Most of the time, we give them a sedative that relaxes them, and lets them fall easily to the ground. Like the poster above, some horses usually stumble around before they finally let go and go to the ground, if you have even seen a horse gelded or put to sleep for surgery, all horses tend to want to stand up and not fall down, mainly because of the flight reflexes of horses, if they lay down they are to easy for "prey" to get them. ( that is why when most horses are laying down in the field to nap, there is usually at least one horse standing guard) Anyway, the sedation puts them physically down on the ground and then the vet will inject one of two ways to actually euthanize them. If the horse is going to be buried, then they will use beuathanasia injection which is basically an overdose of phenabarbatal and they will go take a few breaths and then be gone. If the horse is going to be used for feed or taken to a dumping site, then the vet will probably use penacillian, which when injected into the vein, will kill a horse very quickly. Because the horse is already sedated, the penacillian will not cause any pain to the animal. The reason most vets will not use beuthanasia to put an animal down that is going for feed or be put out at a dump site is because other animals that would eat the meat will die from the beuathanisia whereas penacillian is not going to kill another animal.
Either way, it is usually very fast and painless. Sometimes after the animal's heart has quit beating, they will take one or two "anguinal" breaths, they are not feeling pain nor is their heart beating, its just a muscle reaction to death.But it can be scary for the owners standing there to see the horse breath after it has been pronounced dead.
We always make sure to put a blanket over the head of the horse after the sedation and they are laying on the ground, that way the owner does not have to actually watch the physical changes of death in the eyes and mouth/tongue.
This is a sad thing to happen and no death is easy, but by choosing to euthanize your horse before he is suffering is the best for the horse.
If you need anymore information, PM me, I will be truthful and honest to you about whatever questions you have.
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post #7 of 16 Old 03-11-2011, 08:41 PM
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I'm very sorry you are going through this, I wasn't there when my mare Tiffany was put to sleep 7 years ago, my mom had it done while i was at work, I was devastated when I found out after i got off. I did have a mare put to sleep back in August, Faith, she wasn't mine, she was pulled from the kill pen and needed a place to stay so i took her in until she could go to florida, she was severely foundered and we put her to sleep the day after i got her, it was pretty hard, she was so bad that she couldn't walk out of the stall so we had to put her down in the stall, i worked at a vet's office for 4 years and i had been there for dogs and cats being put down many many times, but it was still very hard, Faith was standing very close to the left wall and when she went down she slammed into the wall, even being as used to it as i was i still gasped, i guess i kind of expected her to go down slowly, dogs and cats are always laying down when they are injected. I called the disposal company right before the vet put her down(sobbing on the phone over a horse i didn't even know for a full 24 hours) they came out about 3 hours after she was put down, the truck wasn't much bigger then a pick up truck....this part might be a little hard for some to read...they wrapped the winch around her neck and drug her out of the stall, and because she was on the left and the door was on the right she kept getting caught up on the walls, i could rationalize enough to know that she was gone and didn't feel it, but it's still very hard to see them being pulled around by her neck, I would make sure, if possible that you have the vet put him down somewhere that the truck can get to easily. I would also call the disposal company as soon as you know when the vet will be out and tell them when the vet appointment is so that they can hopefully be there very soon after wards

I'm very sorry your horse isn't doing well, It's never easy to make the decision to put an animal to sleep
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post #8 of 16 Old 03-11-2011, 09:34 PM
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It's a hard thing to have done, but a necessary one. We've had several horses/mules put to sleep over the years and it never gets any easier. We have one too that is nearing the end of his time and we are contemplating whether or not to just go ahead and have it done. If you know how to contact the company who will be taking the body, you might just call and ask them where would be best for them or if there are any areas that they couldn't get to him.

I would look for a different vet if they didn't allow me to be there. It may just be me, but I think that a beloved friend has the right to have someone who loved him (and was loved by him) to be the last that they see. Being surrounded by strangers just makes a hard time that much more traumatic for them.

Around here, you can schedule an appointment for this anywhere from that day to a few days down the line, depending on the vet's schedule. They often do make exceptions for emergency euths. I have 2 vets within driving distance and I have zero doubt that I could get an appointment within just a couple of days from either one of them.

And, as the old saying goes: "Better a day too soon than a moment too late."
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post #9 of 16 Old 03-11-2011, 11:57 PM
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Hello...I am sorry you are going through this, I know it is not an easy time.

I am in Ca as well, so I know you can't simply have the horse buried om the property. Out here, we have a renderer that comes and takes the horses-the truck is not very big no bigger then say an F-350 with a specialized "bed"...if you want the details on how this works let me know.

A friend of mine had to have her horse PTS this last summer and she said it was a very peaceful experience that gave her the closure she needed. She was with him the whole time. The vet gave him a sedative and helped him lay down (he advised my friend not to sometimes it could be difficult for the horse to lay down under the drug). She said it only took a second and Max was laying down comfortably- nothing stressful about it. While he was down, the vet let her sit on his back and hug his neck while he delivered the euthanasia..he was with her for about a minute and was gone. Hopefully your vet does the same thing and makes it as peaceful and un-stressful as possible for you-and your horse. You are in my thoughts and prayers.
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post #10 of 16 Old 03-12-2011, 12:26 AM Thread Starter
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Thank you guys so much for your kindness, honesty, and explanations so far. I definitely will be asking the vet more about how he generally does things and will get more figured out with the people who will pick him up.
I also definitely would insist upon staying there with him, even if we have to find another vet to do it (though I'm pretty sure our guy will allow it). I just couldn't stand to leave him to go through that among only people he wouldn't know well or trust. This particular horse has had a lot of really terrible experiences with people for most of his life, so to me it's extremely important that he's among a trusted friend on his way out.

And Phantomcolt, don't worry, I've read a lot about that and actually even watched videos of just what you described (because I figured better the first time be a horse I don't know than our guy) so I understand. Thank you for being honest

I'm doing pretty well with everything at the moment, I suppose disassociating to a point, though I'm sure that won't be possible once the day comes.
Honestly I'm glad he's at least made it this far with us, long enough to learn to trust at least some humans again because he was really badly abused before we had him. It took him a long time to settle down, so I'm just glad he stuck around long enough to meet kind people and got to have some really nice, calm last years of life. My mom right now can't even think about it, but I'm going ahead and starting with the planning, mentally, and feel pretty at peace with things. It really is so much better for him than having to keep on living in pain.

Anyway, thank you guys again.
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