Deciding when to let go of an old friend is always a difficult decision for a horse owner and unfortunately this is not the only time that euthanasia of a horse, pony or donkey may be necessary. Sadly accidents and severe illness can come without warning to any animal and, when treatment is not possible for whatever reason, prompt humane euthanasia can be the kindest option. In these emergency situations an owner may have little time to come to terms with the situation, let alone time to prepare themselves, so a little reading and discussion in advance can make all the difference.
If you are concerned your horse’s quality of life is becoming poorer and would like to discuss your options with a vet please don’t hesitate to ring us as there are often many issues to consider and in some cases there may be other options available for your horse.
If your horse is on livery, or you are going away on holiday, it is advisable to leave some guidance in your absence to avoid unnecessary delay if the worst should happen. It is the horse’s owner who should make the decision as to whether to euthanase a horse, with veterinary guidance where necessary, so please ensure you can be contacted promptly or leave instructions for your horse’s carers (or us directly) whilst you are away. It can also be helpful to discuss your wishes as regards major surgery (e.g. colic) and whether you have a specific budget (or insurance criteria to fulfil) at the same time. It may sound a little negative but again can avoid unnecessary delay if an emergency should arise.
Methods of Euthanasia
Horses can be euthanased by injection or by free bullet (gun). Both methods are considered to be equally humane but owners may have a strong preference for either method for many reasons. We routinely euthanase horses by injection but can euthanase your horse by free bullet if this is requested in advance.
Horses usually deal with the loss of a field/stable companion surprisingly well. However, if your horse has a particularly close companion, or if you have two horses and one will be left on his own, it is worth thinking about how you will manage the other horse for a day or so after. If you are concerned this may be difficult, please let us know as it may be helpful for us to prescribe sedatives for the other horse or to handle the procedure differently.
Should you be there?
This is a very personal decision so is entirely your choice. It is often helpful to have a friend around to support you, and in this case you can change your mind at any time if you wish. You may wish to stay until your horse is sedated and less aware of his surroundings before leaving, or to stay away altogether, again it is entirely up to you. We can arrange to bring a nurse with us to hold your horse if you would prefer so please let us know in advance if this would help.
Arranging for disposal
Most horses are collected for cremation. This can be routine or individual and you may request your horse’s ashes back if you wish. It is important to decide this in advance, and make your requirements clear, as not all companies can offer all these services. If you have your own land and wish to bury your horse there are now strict rules and guidelines you must comply with. Please contact DEFRA well in advance to check current requirements and make the necessary arrangements.
If your horse is to be collected after euthanasia, it is usually best to arrange for this approximately half an hour after the vet arrives where possible so you don’t feel rushed. Again, you may wish not to be present at this stage so it is best to make all arrangements in advance.
In an emergency situation, or if you are unsure of you options, we will do our best to help with these arrangements. If you require any additional information please ring the practice to discuss your concerns or requirements.