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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
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:(
 

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Oh dear. So sorry to read about this struggle. :hug:

I have had to euthanize horses, for various reasons, and it is always hard and hurts so much :frown_color:

One thing I might have missed, how old is this horse?

Also does she have allergies to hay or just not interested?

I have had horses that were allergic and developed heaves (COPD) so had to go on a hay free diet.

I have also had horses that because of age could not longer chew or digest hay.
 

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Also has any bloodwork been pulled to check for Cushings or Lyme's?

Personally I have never heard of Laminitis being linked to COPD, but of course ineffective breathing can affect other parts of the body.

Older horses, like older people, have little resistance from temperature extremes so blankets are needed in the cold.
 

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I am so sorry to hear you are dealing with this. :sad:

It is never an easy thing. How old is she? Have you thought about getting a second opinion from a different vet?

It is a very difficult decision to make, but you have to consider the quality of life. You will know when to make that call. Just keep her comfortable (which you have been).

She is a pretty girl, & it sounds like you love her very much. :hug:
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
She is 18 years old and has been seen by multiple vets. Her teeth are up to date and are in fairly good shape; she was eating hay perfectly fine until the cold hit, so I doubt it's her teeth. She has had blood work done and is negative for Cushing's or Lyme. She reacts horribly to alfalfa and straw and hay with mold, so I am extremely careful about my hay. Right now she is fed vet approved hay; extremely clean, green, and not dusty. I can't afford a hay free diet so she is fed top quality free choice hay and it is always netted. She never seems to react to that, but she does react to pollen, harvest season and extreme heat/extreme cold.

She is walking much better today and was able to be turned out for an hour to stretch her legs and get fresh air. She's longer walking on eggshells but does have a slight limp, though I'm not sure why. Her breathing is still labored, however, and she has zero energy or interest in anything. She just stands in the stall or the paddock, eyes wide and breathing..... It just feels wrong:(
 

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I think you already know the answer to your question. How old is your mare?

There is the saying better a day to soon then a day late.

Unfortunately the horses we love and care for ,get to the point we have to make that difficult disision. Just know putting her down is the last kind act of love.

I've been through this almost now two years ago. Never easy but I know I did the right thing.

Sounds like you're mare isn't going to truely be better. Give her till Monday if not improved 98 percent then it time to let her go. If she's struggling to breathe that isn't good.

Sorry your going through this, beautiful mare btw.

Edited to add ,I see she's doing better give her more time. She's only 18 so I'd see how she continues here. I thought she was maybe really old.
 

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She is 18 years old and has been seen by multiple vets. Her teeth are up to date and are in fairly good shape; she was eating hay perfectly fine until the cold hit, so I doubt it's her teeth. She has had blood work done and is negative for Cushing's or Lyme. She reacts horribly to alfalfa and straw and hay with mold, so I am extremely careful about my hay. Right now she is fed vet approved hay; extremely clean, green, and not dusty. I can't afford a hay free diet so she is fed top quality free choice hay and it is always netted. She never seems to react to that, but she does react to pollen, harvest season and extreme heat/extreme cold.

She is walking much better today and was able to be turned out for an hour to stretch her legs and get fresh air. She's longer walking on eggshells but does have a slight limp, though I'm not sure why. Her breathing is still labored, however, and she has zero energy or interest in anything. She just stands in the stall or the paddock, eyes wide and breathing..... It just feels wrong:(
My COPD horse had to have no hay, but have had others that I soaked the hay and they were fine.

Winter was the hardest time for him. Spring I could bring him back into condition. He also had Albuterol tablets (crushed in applesauce)


We even vacuumed him to get all the dust off his body.

I'm wondering if your horse has just picked up a respiratory infection that is making everything worse temporarily.

IMO 18 is not old...even for a COPD horse...
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
She is 18 years old and has been seen by multiple vets. Her teeth are up to date and are in fairly good shape; she was eating hay perfectly fine until the cold hit, so I doubt it's her teeth. She has had blood work done and is negative for Cushing's or Lyme. She reacts horribly to alfalfa and straw and hay with mold, so I am extremely careful about my hay. Right now she is fed vet approved hay; extremely clean, green, and not dusty. I can't afford a hay free diet so she is fed top quality free choice hay and it is always netted. She never seems to react to that, but she does react to pollen, harvest season and extreme heat/extreme cold.

She is walking much better today and was able to be turned out for an hour to stretch her legs and get fresh air. She's longer walking on eggshells but does have a slight limp, though I'm not sure why. Her breathing is still labored, however, and she has zero energy or interest in anything. She just stands in the stall or the paddock, eyes wide and breathing..... It just feels wrong:(
My COPD horse had to have no hay, but have had others that I soaked the hay and they were fine.

Winter was the hardest time for him. Spring I could bring him back into condition. He also had Albuterol tablets (crushed in applesauce)


We even vacuumed him to get all the dust off his body.

I'm wondering if your horse has just picked up a respiratory infection that is making everything worse temporarily.

IMO 18 is not old...even for a COPD horse...
I understand 18 is not that old. You have to understand that I've only owned her for 4 years. When I bought her she was in horrible condition; she had never had her teeth done, she was severely underweight and she had had 4 babies with no vet care or consideration. She was already heavey when I bought her (I didn't know any better) and improved, but after 2 years she did get an upper respiratory infection that kicked it into overdrive. We've been struggling ever since.

I know 18 isn't that old, and trust me I feel like dirt, but she looks like she's 18 going on 107. The vet said he would never believe she was 18 if she didnt have the papers. We've tried everything we can AFFORD and everything I can reasonably do. I have two kids under 5 so time and money is not something I have a lot of; I do my best.

I tried rehoming her in the past to see if someone better equipped could take her. I even reached out to several rescues and they all told me if she didn't improve and they couldn't adopt her our she would be put to sleep. I can't give her everything possible, but I do love her and thought it would be better for her to spend her last year's with someone who loves her instead of strangers. I'm doing my best, but it's not enough. Honestly I don't know how much more I can afford to do. I'd love to, but I only work part time and we're scraping by as it is.
 

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This is never an easy decision and none of here are going to pass judgement on what you finally decide.

One quote I always remember is: It is better to let them go a minute too early than a minute too late

I can tell from your post that you love this horse - and her quality of life is important to you. When you decide to let her go - know that all of us here are there with you in spirit. It is the last truly loving gift we can give them.
 

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I understand 18 is not that old. You have to understand that I've only owned her for 4 years. When I bought her she was in horrible condition; she had never had her teeth done, she was severely underweight and she had had 4 babies with no vet care or consideration. She was already heavey when I bought her (I didn't know any better) and improved, but after 2 years she did get an upper respiratory infection that kicked it into overdrive. We've been struggling ever since.

I know 18 isn't that old, and trust me I feel like dirt, but she looks like she's 18 going on 107. The vet said he would never believe she was 18 if she didnt have the papers. We've tried everything we can AFFORD and everything I can reasonably do. I have two kids under 5 so time and money is not something I have a lot of; I do my best.

I tried rehoming her in the past to see if someone better equipped could take her. I even reached out to several rescues and they all told me if she didn't improve and they couldn't adopt her our she would be put to sleep. I can't give her everything possible, but I do love her and thought it would be better for her to spend her last year's with someone who loves her instead of strangers. I'm doing my best, but it's not enough. Honestly I don't know how much more I can afford to do. I'd love to, but I only work part time and we're scraping by as it is.
I'm so sorry. If you can't do any more, then you can't. Euthanasia is not the worst thing to happen to a horse.

Give her lots of treats, hugs and kisses. You have loved her and that's all a horse really wants.
 

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No antibiotics? I would think a dose of antibiotics might be very helpful. If I remember correctly, they are not that expensive from the vet.
 

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I think you already know the answer in your head, but your heart is aching. Been through this more times than I would care to admit. It never gets easier.

She's a beautiful girl, but her eyes look anxious to me. This time last year we had to put one of our horses down at 22, and honestly we should have probably done it much sooner. We kept looking at it from a day to day perspective, instead of overall quality of life one. He would be sore one day, and then be full of life the next. Progressively getting worse until he could barely walk. Knee issue. It was the hardest decision made, but the absolute right one. The day of was hard, but when he was no longer suffering it was like a heavy weight lifted of everyones shoulders. Looking at pictures now, I see the same anxious look in your horses' eye.

Only you can make this decision, and you'll know when it's time. 18 is not old for a horse who's been well looked after all their life, but it sounds like she didn't have that until she came to you. Give yourself permission to make this decision from her point of view and not feel guilty for it. You have done more than most people would even consider for this girl, and in vets words, theres nothing more to try unfortunately. Between managing an incurable condition, and acquiring a host of other problems from medications (ulcers being big one) the long term prognosis is poor.

When we were struggling with the decision, the vet told us to consider that one day soon we will probably come in and find the horse down with signs struggling for hours and going in that manner. Struggling to breathe is exhausting.

If this was someone else's horse who was asking this question, what would be your answer to them...
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I think you already know the answer in your head, but your heart is aching. Been through this more times than I would care to admit. It never gets easier.

She's a beautiful girl, but her eyes look anxious to me. This time last year we had to put one of our horses down at 22, and honestly we should have probably done it much sooner. We kept looking at it from a day to day perspective, instead of overall quality of life one. He would be sore one day, and then be full of life the next. Progressively getting worse until he could barely walk. Knee issue. It was the hardest decision made, but the absolute right one. The day of was hard, but when he was no longer suffering it was like a heavy weight lifted of everyones shoulders. Looking at pictures now, I see the same anxious look in your horses' eye.

Only you can make this decision, and you'll know when it's time. 18 is not old for a horse who's been well looked after all their life, but it sounds like she didn't have that until she came to you. Give yourself permission to make this decision from her point of view and not feel guilty for it. You have done more than most people would even consider for this girl, and in vets words, theres nothing more to try unfortunately. Between managing an incurable condition, and acquiring a host of other problems from medications (ulcers being big one) the long term prognosis is poor.

When we were struggling with the decision, the vet told us to consider that one day soon we will probably come in and find the horse down with signs struggling for hours and going in that manner. Struggling to breathe is exhausting.

If this was someone else's horse who was asking this question, what would be your answer to them...
I have also been looking at it from a day-to-day perspective, but you're right. If I compare her now to where she was a few years ago when this first started, the quality of life has been reduced drastically. And yes, the eyes are what upset me the most too. She has no interest in her surroundings, and she just looks so lost and bewildered. She looks excited when she sees me but she also looks at me like she's confused and doesn't understand what's happening. On her best days she was a boss, the alpha mare and an absolute beast. This is a mare who has been confident in every situation she's ever faced since I bought her; she's fearless, wise and so trustworthy. Seeing her reduced to this is heartbreaking, and it feels so unfair. I know she'll never stop fighting; it's not in her nature. But watching her lose a fight for the first time in her life is gut wrenching.
 

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Unfortunately it is a decision we often have to make even though we do not want to.

She is not going to get any better with time and the longer she goes on the worse she will get.

The most selfless thing you can do is to let her go.

She has a wonderful big kind eye yet you say she has lost interest, a sure sign she doesn't want to be here.

Sorry, it is hard but know it is for her best.
 

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I hope you have found that you did not need to fear the responses you would get here, and thus no need to ask for us to 'be gentle'. Most everyone here is gentle, and many know exactly what you are going through.


If this is going to happen again next winter, and the winter after, and not much quality of life for her in between, and then there's the huge drain on your finances, then let her go. I know many think that money should have no bearing on this decision, but how can it not? that's what I think.
 

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It sounds like it may be time then. You have done so much for her & all that you could. She knows that, too. I think she is also telling you that it may be her time. Keep her comfortable, love on her. Letting her go peacefully is better than letting her go in suffering.

We are here for you. :hug:
 

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I just wanted to say I'm sorry that this is happening to you, and I can imagine how hard it must be. It sounds like you've done everything you could for her.

I hope you don't take this as me overreaching, but might I suggest that you take some hair from her tail? Maybe now won't be the right time, but you can make it into something nice to remind you of her (or have someone do it). It sounds like you really really care about this horse (and who can blame you? Look at her face and that kind eye!), so if it were me I would want something physical to remember her by.
 
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