is it time to say goodbye?? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 8 Old 10-14-2013, 10:31 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Apr 2012
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is it time to say goodbye??

My 14 yr old daughter's horse is +/- 30 yrs old. We got her several years ago with paperwork that said she was 11, but we knew that wasnt true. The vet said at the time she was probably 20ish, the equine dentist said she was closer to 30. Her teeth are horrible, most of them missing in the back on both sides, top and bottom. What teeth she has left have been floated three times in the last 2 years.

Every year she drops weight in the winter despite our best attempts at keeping weight on (soaked senior feed, soaked alfalfa cubes, soaked beet pulp, soaked sweet feed, extra oats, weight builder, and the softest hay we can buy) the list goes on but thats what she was on last winter. We have tried a combination of just about everything. But in the spring as soon as the grass comes in, she does great and every year by the fall she is nice and chunky and has excess fat to help her get through winter.. and the cycle continues.

Lilly would cough sometimes when she was being worked but it was not consistent and with no other symptoms, we werent too concerned. Then we found out in June that she has a grade 4 mitral valve heart murmur. (which the vet didnt mention when he came to float her teeth a few months before that?) All her work stopped at that point. The vet said we are able to take her on walking trail rides but she is not allowed to get out of breath. Since then, she has been on maybe three walking trail rides. She seemed to be the same old Lilly.

Here's my problem.. she has not gained weight this summer. In fact, she has lost weight. The vet said its probably due to the heart problem and lack of blood pumping the nutrition to where it needs to be. Its never an easy to make the decision, but other than her weight loss she seems to be fine. But I am concerned that this winter will be so hard on her. We live in a windy part of western NY.. some winters are mild but most are a few months of lots of snow, freezing temps sometimes below zero.

And then there is the problem of knowing next spring, the grass that comes in isnt going to do anything for her. We opened a new pasture this spring so our horses have had more pasture available then ever.. and she still looks awful. You can see her ribs and her spine to give you and idea of how bad she is. I have pictures of her in June and she has lost weight since then.

Is it time to say goodbye? Am I being selfish to make her fight through another winter just to prolong the inevitable??
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post #2 of 8 Old 10-14-2013, 10:40 AM
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Central Texas, easily mistaken for a big bowl of dust!!
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I can't speak about you're particular situation, but I do have a story.

My Great Dane is nine years old and we found out she had kidney failure. They were working at about 30% the normal rate. We did IV therapy and she improved. It was either that, or her being PTS. She seemed happy and healthy otherwise so we treated her.

This past weekend, we woke up to her making an odd sound and she wouldn't get up. While trying to find a vet that's open on Sunday, she went downhill fast and passed away at 10:30 am. I wish we could have gotten her to a vet sooner because t was miiserable to watch her struggle for air. I would rather her have bern comfortable when she passed. I was happy to have at least another month with her, we had her eight years.

I'm just going to say if you do keep her around, be prepared for her to go downhill at anytime.
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post #3 of 8 Old 10-14-2013, 10:45 AM
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I think if she was my horse id put her down before winter,sounds like its her time to go.
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post #4 of 8 Old 10-14-2013, 10:58 AM
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I'd wait for one warm, nice day and then put her to sleep. Give her a good, final day. Groom her, grase her, give her scratches. I would let her go.
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post #5 of 8 Old 10-14-2013, 11:08 AM
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I agreed, sad to say. I wouldn't want her to suffer another winter. 30 is a good long life!!
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post #6 of 8 Old 10-14-2013, 11:26 AM
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It is best to not wait until you are in a crisis situation.
It sounds like this would be a very difficult winter for her.
This is the difficult part of horse (pet) ownership.
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post #7 of 8 Old 10-14-2013, 02:47 PM
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Weight loss is extremely common in older horses.

Of course she isn't going to gain weight on grass- she has no teeth to chew the grass with! The same with hay- she may be able to eat it, but without being able to chew it well, she might not be able to digest it.

Have you tried a complete feed? They are designed to be fed without hay, although I would leave at least some hay to keep the horse busy throughout the day. You probably need to feed 12-20 lbs of feed per day- split into smaller meals, as you risk colic feeding more than 5 lbs per meal.

Here is a good article on complete feeds
7 Tips for Selecting and Feeding a Complete Feed |

One more with info on feeding hay cubes:

You could also try adding oil which is dense in calories. My horses don't like corn oil but will eat canola oil from Walmart.

You can give a cup of oil per feeding, but I would reduce the grain if adding oil. One cup of oil is about 2000 calories.

Before investing in the added feed, it may make more sense to pull bloodwork first. If her bloodwork is okay, I would assume the weight loss is due to the teeth issue.

If she fails to gain weight with a change of feed or continues to lose weight than it may be time to say goodbye.

Does she have a stall or shelter for the winter? I would take that into consideration as well. Is she otherwise comfortable? a horse can be skinny and still be comfortable. Do you plan on blanketing this winter?

If she seems happy other than the weight loss, I would not put her down just yet. Wait a few months, see how her weight does on the new diet, and than decide.

I've dealt with lots of older horses. Many will pass without needing the vet up, but some aren't so lucky. With her heart issue, I would expect her to pass quickly if she does pass naturally.
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post #8 of 8 Old 10-14-2013, 04:45 PM
Join Date: Sep 2013
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I have a story about a mare who will be 36 next year. She has been skinny for years now. Like yours putting weight on in summer, losing in winter. She pretty much lives off mush and gums hay. Hasn't done more than hobble around. Well, a couple years ago I turned her out to pasture and went to get her pony buddy. I brought the pony out and the mare wasn't by the gate. I look around and way at the other end of the pasture there is another gate that is open. I turn around and the mare comes cantering around the corner of the barn and went visiting the other horses! She was having the time if her life. Most people would have put her down long ago and she would have missed out on her "naughty" adventure. She also loves nothing more than when kids come and brush her.
I wouldn't put a horse down just for being skinny if it still seemed happy. You just work harder and do more to keep them comfortable. Now the mare at the barn is starting to lose control of her back end and the time is coming (luckily not my decision) because she has fallen if she gets too excited. It will be a very sad day.

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