Heaves and Euthanasia - Page 2 - The Horse Forum
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post #11 of 25 Old 06-17-2019, 03:42 PM
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https://equinemedsurg.com/articles/equine-heaves-copd/

For a more natural (herbs, vitamins) approach the above article has tons of good info. Has lots of other informative help on COPD as well. I have no direct experience with heaves but it might be worth a look.

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post #12 of 25 Old 06-17-2019, 03:59 PM
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Not advocating one way or the other, but your husband does have a point. For me, it boils down to I have to do what's best for the horse and not what's best for me. If my horse can't be a horse and has to stay stalled for long periods, well that's no good for the horse. But, I would definitely get a second vet opinion. Maybe they can hit on a management plan that lets your horse make progress.
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post #13 of 25 Old 06-17-2019, 04:50 PM
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Originally Posted by HisMissus2013 View Post
My vet is very practical and blunt. In his eyes she's done for; there isn't any curing it and he doesn't see the point in me medicating her at all. However, I pushed and got the Dex. Her breathing on a day to day basis isn't terrible; just a bit of mucus and a little rattle, but no heave line or anything. The only time I give her a shot is when she has a heave line, which is generally every few months. He always stresses the side effects of the shot and says it's really hard on her so I try not to give it more often than I have to.

The hardest part of all is that she has good days. Sometimes I'll take her for a little ride on our trails and she loves it, she prances and sticks her tail up and acts like a cranky Arab. But if you let her trot, or go up a hill, it sounds like she's dying. She mentally still wants to be what she was but she's gotten so much weaker and it's devastating to watch because she looks so confused.

Winter is what scares me because she did go down last winter, and she hasn't gained any weight this summer so I think this winter will be even worse:(
New vet! If there is NO heave line but she has mucus and rattling, she is suffering from an infection. Get rid of the infection, and she should regain some weight.

Other drugs to try to give her a break from the dex (and I don't see her even needing a break receiving so little so far apart) are Predef-2 and Re-Cvr.
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post #14 of 25 Old 06-17-2019, 07:31 PM
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I don't outright know your or your horse's complete situation but I'll weigh in with a story.

I was good friends with someone who had a sweet, sweet, SWEET Arabian mare who had heaves. Spunky little chestnut who even on her bad days tried to be a little fireball. They kept waiting and working trying everything they could to help her but, as you know, there is no cure for heaves and it only gets progressively worse as time goes on. One day the poor thing collapsed gasping for air while my friend was on the tractor. He ran over to her and she essentially suffocated in front of his eyes and there was nothing he could do to stop her suffering. The vet arrived 10 minutes after she had passed and he said it was one of the worst things he'd ever gone through in his entire life.

You know your horse and you know how the disease progresses. I am a firm believer in a day too early than a minute too late but again YOU know your horse and it is your decision. If she were mine I'd give her a little time and before she gets too bad spoil her rotten before allowing it to get worse.

I am really sorry you're having to go through this and it really does sound like you have done and are doing everything you can for her. ~hugs~
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post #15 of 25 Old 06-17-2019, 07:46 PM
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I agree, while yes, I do think her time may come earlier then you want it to and there is no shame in doing what you can and giving her a peaceful end before she suffers I also think there IS more you can try, and not all of it is going to break the bank. I would have another vet who is more comfortable working with heaves check her out.

I do agree with your vet that dex is a last resort, I'm surprised that people seem so "pro dex", but at the same time if she needs it she needs it. I would definitely avoid anything that could possible be "work". She may be better off inside then outside have you tried that? (If she has allergies and you have a clean barn for example) Every horse is different, it sounds like she has a large allergy component, it may be worth allergy testing just to see what you're working with. If she comes in to pine shavings do you water the stall? Could be she's allergic to pine too. I wouldn't give up just yet. At least look into it more, with someone not so fatalistic. There's blunt then there's not going to bother. Heaves is common and can usually be controlled (of course some more easily then others)

It also sounds like her weight is a major factor. Have you considered things other then heaves? Cushings for example? Does she have a clean bill of health otherwise? I'd definitely check that first. Then also consider different types of feed. May be worth trying different grains, how much is she getting? Are her teeth good? Think of her *just* as underweight for a minute. I would add beet pulp and other stuff. I'm guessing she could likely get more, and maybe since she used to be an easy keeper you're not giving her enough for her current needs (a hard keeper can eat a TON of food). How are you soaking her hay? Soaking it also removes nutrients... I would just mist it, or steaming is supposed to work wonders for horses that need the calories but need it wet. I think there was even a thread about DIY steamers on here (ages ago lol).

I would be realistic, and I don't think considering the option is wrong, but I wouldn't give up just yet, give her a little more time and see what direction she's going in. I'd love to hear more about exactly what she's eating.
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post #16 of 25 Old 06-18-2019, 04:27 PM
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No shame to put her down if you have reached the end of what you are willing or able to do.

Esp. if your husband is pushing for it, it is hard to have such a disagreement between 2 spouses. But in no shape or form would I agree to sell her for cheap or give her away for free. I'm sorry to say it bluntly, but that is a cop out. It is difficult for you to maintain her at the additional cost and work, and you HAVE a emotional bond with her.
Someone that doesn't have that emotional bond is not going to try half of what you did. They will put weight on her and send her on her way. Or simply let her decline and most likely die a rough death once they figure out they can't "fix" her.

All that said, I feel like you haven't quite reached the point of letting go. If this treatment plan is all your vet could come up with, it sounds like they need a new job. A dex shot every few month is not going to help her. She could have already been a lot better and managed her weight better with some relief from better treatment. If she has no heave line other than every few month, she is not a severe case. As a matter of fact, it sounds more like a nagging respiratory infection that should have been cultured and treated with antibiotics.

For the vet to say "she's done for, waste of money" because "there is no cure". Well. There is no cure for diabetes. Cushings. And a great many other things where you can still have great quality of life if treated right, whether horse, dog or human. And it doesn't even have to be a expensive treatment either.

Even if it is heaves, why would they tell you to give a shot every few month? You might as well not do it, honestly. There have been a few horses over the years with heaves at my barn. All were managed and rather well. A couple were far more advanced than your mare sounds like. Dex has possible side effects. What medication doesn't though. If it gives her a couple (or more) good years at a very manageable price, what would be wrong about trying? She would probably do rather well at a relatively small but REGULAR dose. Really not impressed with what your vet came up with.

Once she feels and breathes better, it would be far easier to keep her weight up nicely during winter. With very few tweaks to the diet. Thin coat? Many horses need blanketing. Also not a big deal.

I'm saying all this not to make you feel bad, but only because I feel that you aren't ready to give up just yet. If you get to the point that you are, honor her life by letting her die at home, at peace. Not in a strange place, scared or facing worse then euthanasia.

She is young, her disease doesn't sound that advanced esp. given that she isn't on Dex treatment plan. If it was me, I would have a culture taken to see what is really going on. The gurgling and mucus sounds like an infection has settled and she hasn't ever gotten rid of it. A Culture will make sure the right antibiotics are given, as not all of them will work for all respiratory infections.

Sit down with your husband, see if he is willing to get another vets point of view, given on the info you have received from other members on here. You both need to be on the same page. He needs to realize you have to feel at peace with your decision. And if you both are, give her the gift of being let go at home and at peace.
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post #17 of 25 Old 06-18-2019, 04:55 PM
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I think others have already covered a lot of things, but I'll just throw one more out there... however, before I do, I agree that there is no shame in euthanizing a horse that cannot be cured of heaves. I have a friend who is contemplating doing just that, and I honestly don't blame her.

BUT... when I first bought my daughter's horse almost 4 years ago, the first winter we had him, he began to cough a lot. The vet said it was heaves - same as yours - it's incurable, but can be managed with DEX. I put him on a daily dose for about a month. Now that I know more about Dex, I wouldn't use it so quickly, but sometimes you have to do what you have to do. Can't you give him the powder daily? Is it really worse than death? However, what I wanted to say was that the second year, we moved our horse home and started aggressively managing it. We did all the things you're doing, except for stalling. He is heavily blanketed. I'm talking layers of blankets (I sometimes just put a fleece under his winter blanket) and a neck cover to keep his airway from getting cold. I steamed his hay. And he was fine until about March without any meds, but then he started to cough again and we put him on Ventipulmin for 28 days. It cost about 125$. He has not been on any meds since then. He has now been through two winters without coughing at all, free of any meds. I still blanket him aggressively but no longer wet or steam his hay.

I feel like your vet may have made up his mind that this horse isn't worth saving so if it were me, I'd get another opinion, and try the Ventipulmin if you haven't already. Blanket your mare and let her out! The footing isn't great here either, and my daughter's horse doesn't move as much in the winter as he does in the summer, but he is out 24/7 with access to his stall. Some days he just stands in the stall with his head sticking out, but that means he is getting fresh air.

So I guess you have to decide whether you are comfortable that you really have tried everything or whether your vet is misleading you on how treatable this really is. No one would guess my daughter's horse was diagnosed with heaves - at 20, he still jumps, brings home lots of ribbons, and never coughs at all anymore even though he's no longer medicated. On the other hand, my friend's horse is always wheezing even though they've done everything I did including turnout and blanketing as well as Ventipulmin and daily Dex. I guess you have to figure out what side your horse is on, but I'd at least talk to one other vet before euthanizing her.
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post #18 of 25 Old 06-18-2019, 05:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yogiwick View Post
I would just mist it, or steaming is supposed to work wonders for horses that need the calories but need it wet. I think there was even a thread about DIY steamers on here (ages ago lol).
Just wanted to add that I made a steamer from a rubber garbage can and an old child's humidifier. I put the hay in a haynet and made a metal rack with an old bbq grill so I could hang it over the humidifier. It would take me about 45 minutes to steam a couple of flakes. I opted to steam over soaking because in the winter, the soaked hay would freeze solid whereas the steamed hay did not.

I also second beet pulp.
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post #19 of 25 Old 06-18-2019, 05:36 PM
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Originally Posted by lhoward31 View Post
No shame to put her down if you have reached the end of what you are willing or able to do.

Esp. if your husband is pushing for it, it is hard to have such a disagreement between 2 spouses. But in no shape or form would I agree to sell her for cheap or give her away for free. I'm sorry to say it bluntly, but that is a cop out. It is difficult for you to maintain her at the additional cost and work, and you HAVE a emotional bond with her.
Someone that doesn't have that emotional bond is not going to try half of what you did. They will put weight on her and send her on her way. Or simply let her decline and most likely die a rough death once they figure out they can't "fix" her.

All that said, I feel like you haven't quite reached the point of letting go. If this treatment plan is all your vet could come up with, it sounds like they need a new job. A dex shot every few month is not going to help her. She could have already been a lot better and managed her weight better with some relief from better treatment. If she has no heave line other than every few month, she is not a severe case. As a matter of fact, it sounds more like a nagging respiratory infection that should have been cultured and treated with antibiotics.

For the vet to say "she's done for, waste of money" because "there is no cure". Well. There is no cure for diabetes. Cushings. And a great many other things where you can still have great quality of life if treated right, whether horse, dog or human. And it doesn't even have to be a expensive treatment either.

Even if it is heaves, why would they tell you to give a shot every few month? You might as well not do it, honestly. There have been a few horses over the years with heaves at my barn. All were managed and rather well. A couple were far more advanced than your mare sounds like. Dex has possible side effects. What medication doesn't though. If it gives her a couple (or more) good years at a very manageable price, what would be wrong about trying? She would probably do rather well at a relatively small but REGULAR dose. Really not impressed with what your vet came up with.

Once she feels and breathes better, it would be far easier to keep her weight up nicely during winter. With very few tweaks to the diet. Thin coat? Many horses need blanketing. Also not a big deal.

I'm saying all this not to make you feel bad, but only because I feel that you aren't ready to give up just yet. If you get to the point that you are, honor her life by letting her die at home, at peace. Not in a strange place, scared or facing worse then euthanasia.

She is young, her disease doesn't sound that advanced esp. given that she isn't on Dex treatment plan. If it was me, I would have a culture taken to see what is really going on. The gurgling and mucus sounds like an infection has settled and she hasn't ever gotten rid of it. A Culture will make sure the right antibiotics are given, as not all of them will work for all respiratory infections.

Sit down with your husband, see if he is willing to get another vets point of view, given on the info you have received from other members on here. You both need to be on the same page. He needs to realize you have to feel at peace with your decision. And if you both are, give her the gift of being let go at home and at peace.
I completely agree with this however, while I would NOT put her on the market I would consider a rescue or experienced person you know as an alternate home.

@lhoward31 do you know a lot of horses getting regular year round Dex? I've worked with a lot of vets/horses and dex is either short term as a treatment or as needed for flare ups. I'd be concerned if she needed dex regularly, and I don't think her vet said to do it every few months, just as needed (which for this horse is every few months). It's not just a medication it's a steroid and there's a much higher risk of more serious side effects then your average medication. Oftentimes it does as much harm then good, I've dealt with that plenty it's not pretty and it's usually used for emergency situations or as a last resort medication wise. However, I agree at this point this horse needs more, and maybe one of the things to try ruling out other things (and I agree there's likely other factors) is to up the dex, because to be blunt side effects don't matter if you need to put her down, if that's her last resort then go for it. If dex can buy you a few more years of good qol vs putting her down in a few months then that's all that matters. I do think a different vet that is actually interested in helping you would make a world of difference for her!

Too add- I am NOT at all belittling the care you've put into this horse!! However, I think you've only done the bare minimum (and I think a different vet would explain that to you better). Caring for a horse with heaves can be a lot of work and it's understandable if that's too much for you, however, given a little more time and hopefully finding the magic combination for your mare can make things routine and much more simple/less overwhelming then they are now. Sort of "work smarter, not harder", could be you try a bunch of different things and she is STILL a huge amount of work and not doing well, but since you've barely scratched the surface as far as what you've tried (keeping her out, square bales, these are great but when that doesn't cut it you look at part 2- I don't think you've tried much for medications/supplements? etc). It could be her magic combination of care is right around the corner and you just haven't found it yet. I'm not saying to keep on going indefinitely, but it's at least worthwhile to look into different things. I knew a pony that was kept out, with out being a little dirt paddock next to the dusty ring. I convinced them to STOP keeping him out and got him a corner stall with good airflow but away from the dust and he improved and no longer needed as much care. So as I said maybe give yourself some limits for what you are willing to try and how well she is doing by that time but don't necessarily give up right now. If you can rule out other health concerns and find a good balance (and that may be an if) she could do very well for years to come.
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Last edited by Yogiwick; 06-18-2019 at 05:51 PM.
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post #20 of 25 Old 06-18-2019, 06:07 PM
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The problem is that many equine rescues end up needed rescue. Or they just fold up one day, and you find horses that were neglected or worse. Happens far to often.

Nearby there was a young lady advertising that she was looking for older companion horses, so that her barrel horse would have company. She said she was a vet student (which is true) and that she therefor could provide excellent care for seniors or horses that have some manageable health issues.

Of course, people jumped on that. What she really did, though, was to send the horses off to slaughter. She would tell the former owners the horses "passes away" in some cases falsifying vet records. We are talking about a large number of horses, some of the owners are still trying to track down what exactly happened to theirs.

Its simply unrealistic to expect other people to take on a horse that can't be ridden anymore and that needs a lot of extra effort and / or expense to just keep going. Horses are expensive to begin with. I think it would be a very rare exception indeed where this would work out in the favor of the horse. Long term. I would never risk it, personally, but everyone has to make their own decision.

Honestly, I don't remember the exact dose of Dex that those horses got. What I do know is that they were on a actual "plan". They started out with a larger dose and got weaned down to the absolute minimum that would give them good quality of life. Other meds were incorporated as well as some lifestyle changes (to keep dust down in food and housing, etc, some other meds).

I may be wrong, but to me it sounds as if the OP isn't quite ready to give up or has doubts. To me it also sounds like there is no good options given by vet, esp. one that says its "a waste" to even try since there is no cure. That wouldn't do it for me. Esp. if it doesn't quite present as severe heaves, from what I have experienced (not my own horse, though)

No shame to give up. But if I were to struggle with this, if I had a emotional bond and wouldn't be quite sure, I wouldn't stop at this. Esp. after reading about other members that shared their experiences and opinions.
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