Is It Time To Let Go?
PLEASE BE POLITE!! THIS IS A HORRIBLE DECISION, I'M DOING MY BEST AND MY VET IS VERY INVOLVED!
Ok! I have a mare who was diagnosed with COPD years ago. We've taken all the right steps; switched her feeding routine, 24/7 turnout, obsessive weed control, different bedding, antihistamines, steroids (only when needed), breathing treatments, light exercise, you name it. She started out this winter so strong and I was insanely proud! It's been a super warm winter though, then BOOM; the temperature dropped to 11 degrees overnight. I stalled her, but it wasn't enough. She's never had (or needed) a blanket in her life but she was shivering violently. I immediately put my heaviest blanket on her, kept hay in front of her 24/7 (it was anyway, in a hay net), heated her water, and called the vet as soon as he was open. He came out and said her breathing was very bad; she had started a strong flare up, and he wasn't sure she would recover. On top of that, her front hooves had a strong pulse which he suspects may be the start of laminitis.
He gave her a nice big steroid shot as well as a triple dose of antihistimines and gave me bute for her feet. He said if she has not improved in 2-3 days there's nothing more he can do and he would recommend putting her down.
We are now on day 2, and to be honest there's not a lot of improvement. She is excited about her grain and is happy when I come see her; she's still there mentally. She picks at her hay and sips her water, but not much. She does finish the grain, though. Her balance and flexibility are getting better a little, but she still walks like she's walking on eggshells.
I strongly suspect she's only doing better because of the pain killers, and because it's now in the 40's again. Even so, her breathing is still labored.
Where do I go from here? I said I would give her until Monday, and if she wasn't better by then I'd let her go. But she's still there mentally and it's breaking my heart. Another fear I have is that the breathing may clear up, but she will turn out to be laminitic. Do I try to put her through the months of rehab and recovery, knowing she will most likely not survive the next cold snap? And even if she does, I don't think it's right to put her through another winter. Do I put her through months of rehab and pain so she can have maybe 3/4 more months of life?
The vet has already told me she's close to the end and to be prepared. He warned me that I could keep her alive in a stall, but that's not the quality of life she is used to/wants.
I'm trying to think of ways to keep her going. I can get her therapy boots for her feet so she gets a little turnout, blanket her ahead of time next time we have a cold snap (we likely will; we live in the Midwest and winter storms are fair game until Easter) and keep her on her meds. My husband thinks I'm being a little selfish now, but I feel like I'm giving up on her if I put her down now.
I really don't have anyone else to ask about this who will understand. This mare means everything to me. We've been through so much together, and she's my heart horse. Her eyes are still bright, she still has her alpha attitude, but every breath looks like it's a struggle and she can barely walk..... Do I let her keep fighting, or is it time to let go?:(
Please be kind, I've never had to make this decision before and I'm quite literally sick over it:(