The Insurance company gives the go ahead.
Yesterday I arrived at the stables to find The Countess in despair. DiDi had been coughing badly. We had left behind a video camera which had recorded the scene of DiDi wretching. I could not watch the video run through to the end of the recording. It was horrific to watch and to listen to. The horse at times could barely stand. EMPF is indeed a cruel disease. Then slowly the coughing slowed and finally stopped, only to start up, luckily in milder form, a few hours later. DiDi was exhausted.
I decided to immediately take the video to the vets who are located about 5 miles away. We waited for the specialist vet and then showed the video to him. He watched almost disinterestedly, he had seen it all before. ‘You either treat or euthanase’ he said - politely but bluntly. At that moment I was ready to say that we would bring the horse up to the veterinary hospital that afternoon but putting her down had to be a three way decision.
The Countess was for euthanasia except for the ramifications of putting her down for ’social’ reasons. Any ‘authorised’ euthanasia had to be within the conditions laid down by BEVA - the vet rule book which stipulates the treatment for horses in need of treatment for a recognised health condition. If we did not follow those rules, then the insurance company would not pay towards the costs of any disposal of carcass etc. Anyway the vet felt there was a chance for DiDi to respond to treatment but he accepted that before she got better, if indeed she ever did, then she might get worse. He accepted that the caring humans surrounding the horse would pay a high price for watching and listening to DiDi’s distress. But the rules say that all possible treatments must be given and there was still one available for use, an anti viral drug normally kept for use by humans. The trouble was a human may weigh 100 kilos whereas a horse weighs more than 500 kilos. The dosage rates are very different.
We phoned the insurers. They needed to speak with the vet. The vet was, as usual elusive. Emails, and even telephone calls are not answered. We phoned again. Finally we got the approval for treatment which should start today. Vets don’t like putting finger to keyboard, that’s for sure.
In about two weeks time, if we get that far, we‘ll know if the drug works, We‘ll know then if DiDi is to live or to die.
In looking back over the course of this ailment, one things sticks in our mind that the coughing got worse after she had been treated briefly with steroids, drugs which are known to have harmful side effects. I’ll be careful before giving permission to use steroids again. However at my feet sits my Rottweiler who is cursed with Cushings Disease and it is only the steroid tablets which keep him alive. It was steroids which allowed my terrier to walk. Who am I to say anything? I am merely the caring owner of a very sick horse and an ailing dog.
All this emotion, all the sleepless nights, all the rushing back and forth, is in order to give a 12 yo horse who might never ever be ridden again some extension of life. Yet out on the moors of Southern Britain are dozens of healthy cobs who have been abandoned by their owners. I can now see for myself the dilemma being faced by owners who cannot afford to keep a horse in these times of economic hardship. In a way, I can understand that perhaps it is better to let the horses run wild on the moor as once they did, than to desert them in a small fenced off field which sooner or later will be grazed bare and drank dry.
I am calm now. I have arranged to pick up the tablets. DiDi’s life is ordered for another two weeks. The die is cast.
After this is over, one way or the other, we’ll both be set for a prolonged period of rest and recuperation.