The terrible decision, vets bills and when they become too much. - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 29 Old 09-22-2010, 12:03 AM Thread Starter
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The terrible decision, vets bills and when they become too much.

Thankfully, I have not been in this position with a horse, but I was recently with my much loved dog who likely has a brain tumor. It has led me to wonder when I would call it with a horse, if he was in the same position.

With my dog, it was going to cost thousands just to diagnose him, and that does not even start the treatment, until my hubby and I realized that we are not benefitting him to keep him in a crate at a vet hospital while he feels scared and alone (he is blind and having seizures) just so that we can know what is wrong with him. And how much would it benefit him to have the brain surgery as we already know in our hearts and his symptoms that he likely has a brain tumor. So we have decided to do nothing that would cause him any stress and let him live the rest of his life without rules (except for eating the cat litter, that is still a no no).

At my barn last year, they had a horse that broke its pelvis, they chose to keep it on stall rest for a long time and when it finally healed, it had healed in the wrong position, so they euthanized the horse. I do not point fingers at their choice as it was a hard one, but the horse ended up in pain for 6 months to be euthanized.

I know that there is no right answer, as so often it could turn out well, and there is no crystal ball to predict the future. But where is your line, and what would you do?
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post #2 of 29 Old 09-22-2010, 12:08 AM
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Its such a hard decision to end an animals suffering. There is almost always uncertainty...Would they ever recover? What if I put them down and they had a great chance at recovery? I guess it all comes down to what the animal needs. I would love to say that I would put myself into bankrupcy for an animal...but its not just me...I have a family. I couldn't have my kids go without just so a horse could have a colic surgery that may or may not work. I try to use the recovery as a guide. If the horse has an excellent chance of making a full would probably be financially worth it to go up to double that horses value.
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post #3 of 29 Old 09-22-2010, 12:08 AM
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So Sorry to hear about your dog, BTW
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post #4 of 29 Old 09-22-2010, 12:10 AM
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I will draw the line when my horse asks me too. People don't always [like to] see it, but each and every animal will let you know when it's time.

Age is also relevant. There are surgeries I would do for my two year old, but wouldn't likely put my 18 year old through.

It's tough, and I dread the day that it is Ricci's time. But I love her, and after all she's done for me, the least I can do is make sure she doesn't suffer.
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post #5 of 29 Old 09-22-2010, 12:14 AM
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Wow i'm so sorry about your dog:( It's so hard when they get old.

Its hard to say. My horse is 19 and two years ago we discovered he has a huge tumor on his thyroid. We did some research and the surgery to remove it will be $3,000, and there would have to be a donor horse on back up for in case something happen. So i decided he is going to live with it, now if the tumor grows and it is keeping him from eating and it's life and death, i might pay the $3,000. I mean he is 19 acts like a two year old, now if it happens when he is 25 and he is not acting the same i would probably say no, but if he still acts fine, i would probably have to do the surgery. Yet we of course now that is what is wrong.

it's so hard to make a decision when the animals can't speak for themselves. We thought my dog had a tumor in her spine, and we decided to not do the mri because she is old has hip dysplasia so what good would doing surgery on her back do if her hips were giving out, but come to find out she is in congestive heart failure and wasn't getting enough blood supply, problem solved with 8 different meds to keep her alive ugh. She is costing me more money on her meds than my horse is on board!!!

All in all i think it's whatever your heart tells you to do. Nobody can tell you you did the right or wrong thing when nobody knows your pet better than you do:) Oh i wasn't directing that towards anyone, just saying when i worked at the vet lots of people liked to point fingers.
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post #6 of 29 Old 09-22-2010, 12:47 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the responses, and the thoughts for my pup. He is actually doing a little better now (although I am afraid to say it and jinx him). He is considered old apparently according to the vet, but he is only 8 and I had thought of him as a little past middle aged.

But onto the horses, Corino, I enjoy reading your posts, and think that they are well thought out.

Saddlebred, so sorry to hear about your horse. I wish him well. But you bring up the meaning of my post, what if he was 25, we all love our horses and what is the deciding line?

I can't imagine not second guessing myself. With the horse at my barn, I think I might have made the same decision as they did if money was no object and leave it on stall rest for 6 months, but it was the wrong decision as the bones healed badly and the horse had to be euthanized after being on pain meds, which I doubt worked fully. I hope to god I am never put in that position with my boy.
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post #7 of 29 Old 09-22-2010, 06:59 AM
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Very sorry about your dog.

I think you are discussing two very different things here.

1. How do you know when to draw the line on cost.
2. How do you know when to draw the line on treatment related to the amount of discomfort the animal is in.

I think pretty much all of us have a line some where regarding how much money they would spend on medical care for a specific animal before they would have to euthanize. In the case of my animals, I admit the line is in a different place for some than it is for others. Would I let any of them suffer? No. Would I spend more money to save one of my dogs than I would spend on the other two? Yes.

I do not think where anyone (OK, almost anyone) draws the line is a wrong place. We all have reasons for the line placement. It is wrong to judge what other people decide to do or not do in cases like this.

I am not saying it is not wrong when people refuse to do anything and just see what happens because Dobbin or Fido are not worth calling the vet over and heck, it is just a cut and even a cut all the way into the bone will heal on its own, right?

The second subject is just as hard. Sometimes things that better us are painful and uncomfortable for an amount of time (says the person who has a tooth surgically removed recently).

In the example you gave, I would say that since the prognosis if things had healed correctly is a good one, then yes, it is worth it. The animal needs to be kept as comfortable as possible, obviously.
In cases where people do heroic things that there is no chance of it coming out well, it does seem some what silly.

I see no reason for the average rescue to use space and monies to do very long term and costly miracle treatments.
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post #8 of 29 Old 09-22-2010, 08:48 AM
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I'm so sorry to hear about your dog. I'm glad you decided to bring him home.

Financially speaking, if my own vet couldn't do whatever procedure was necessary, then I would have no choice but to put my horse down. We have an equine hospital not to far away, but you have to pay $5000 up front. Even if the procedure you are having done is estimated to cost way less, you still have to pay the 5k up front.

Emotionally speaking, I'd want to do everything I could to save him as long as he had a chance of recovering and living a normal life (free of pain). I would also take into consideration how he is dealing with things mentally. If he has a spark and is eating and happy to see me...well, to me those are all signs that he is still fighting to live. Also, if he had a very long period of stall rest with no activity, then I would have to watch him closely to make sure he is mentally handling it well. My horse doesn't do well when he is stuck in a stall for even a few days (although it might be different if he had a serious injury). I would keep a really close eye on him to make sure he isn't in a state of mind to hurt himself or me.

With the broken pelvic you were talking does look like the vet could do more x-rays in a couple months and make sure the bones are healing in the correct position. Maybe not, IDK.
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post #9 of 29 Old 09-22-2010, 08:49 AM
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Unfortunately, some animals don't tell you when they're ready, and you're going to have to make the decision yourself. Dogs and horses are both very stoic, because showing pain or weakness makes them vulnerable.

I don't judge people based on what they will or won't spend to save an animal. We all have our limits, and most of the time it's financial. Much of the time however, things also hinge on how old the animal is, how healthy, and how strong our emotional attachment to them happens to be.

I wouldn't pay for colic surgery on any horse. It's risky, expensive, and there's no guarantee the horse is going to make it even if it's otherwise young, strong, and healthy. Some people would. Neither of us is wrong.

You have to set your own limits and boundaries, and sometimes emotional attachment has to take a back seat to things like financial restraints.

My deepest condolences about your dog.
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post #10 of 29 Old 09-22-2010, 02:28 PM
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We thought we were going to have to draw the line with daughter's 2 year old colt. He was dropping massive amounts of weight no matter how much we fed him. He developed a hideous skin rash and really smelled awful. We didn't realize how bad he had gotten until the farrier nearly knocked him over just picking up his feet. Farrier thought the skin problem was a fungus, but had no clue why he was dropping weight.

We took the colt to the vet the next weekday, thinking for sure we were not coming home with him - he was so weak and wobbly it was really sad.

Vet gave him a bath - which the colt didn't fuss about at all, which was not like him - giving him a bath is like bathing a wildcat. Vet ran lots of bloodwork and came back to us with a big grin. "Would you QUIT with the alfalfa? He can't process it correctly and it's killing his liver!" The poor liver function was making him really photo sensitive - the rash wasn't a fungus - it was good old fashioned horsey sunburn!

That was two months ago or so, and his weight has really started to come on, but it's nearly impossible to find a grain free or low grain product feed that doesn't have alfalfa in it. Even the feed for sick horses the vet uses has alfalfa in it! But I digress...

We really didn't think we'd come home with Junior - we were afraid that either nothing could be done (his mother died with nearly identical symptoms) or the treatment would be more than we could afford. Vet bill only came to $125, including the bath, blood work and "Pink Lady" for his skin problems. However, we were really preparing ourselves to make "the decision."

Plain Old Dee, horses Dancer and Rain

I believe in dragons, unicorns, good men and other mythical creatures!
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