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Is euthanasia a reasonable choice here?

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  • Is euthanasia a reasonable choice here?

    The horse in question is a 4 year old OTTB bought as a resale project who stepped off the trailer lame. Lameness exam found osteochondrosis of both front fetlocks. Horse is bilaterally lame, flexes 3/5 on both fetlocks, and has limited range of motion. Equioxx and pads have made no difference. Lame and uncomfortable under saddle and increasingly angry/sour about moving forward. Owner doesn't want to inject a 4 year old.

    The owner has limited remaining funds and is concerned about finding a low-level home, as the horse isn't even sound W/T. Owner cannot keep horse for financial reasons. When (is it?) appropriate to broach this with a vet? What would you do in this situation?

  • #2
    I'd euthanize - either at the barn or consider donating horse to a vet school for if there is one close enough.

    Good long term homes for horses like this are practically non-existent. Most of the alternatives are not pleasant.

    I'd bring it up with the vet sooner than later. If the vet is unwilling to euthanize, start looking for a more understanding vet.


    • #3
      Yes. If the horse is not comfortable, and cannot be ridden, the owner has limited options but I am 100% behind euthanasia if it keeps an unusable, unsound animal out of the slaughter pipeline. When is it appropriate to talk to vet? Now. No reason to delay it.


      • #4
        Chances are the horse was injected on the track, and if it's injections or euthanasia - I'd try them. That said, I don't think it's unreasonable to broach the subject with the vet now. Is he a surgical candidate, assuming someone was willing?


        • Original Poster

          The horse is not a surgical candidate, unfortunately (no chips or fragments). The concern with injections is the difficulty of finding a home willing to maintain fetlock injections for a pleasure horse at 4.


          • #6
            without hesitation I would euthanize. 3/5 the horse sounds miserable
            -- * > hoopoe
            Procrastinate NOW
            Introverted Since 1957


            • #7
              I would absolutely euthanize. It sounds like horse would be miserable as a pasture pet even. I’m guessing he probably isn’t trained enough to advertise as a walking only, trail riding home (if he even came sound enough for that) so realistically there are no career prospects for him. Horses have no ability to think into future and imagine what might have been. All they understand is their current circumstances and it doesn’t sound like he’s enjoying life.

              I would hope your vet would be understanding. Otherwise contact another vet.


              • #8
                I've had to do this.

                Gorgeous OTTB. 6 years old. Thick, jumped a 10, brave as hell.

                He foundered. 6 grams of bute could not even touch the pain he was in. He was also 16.3hh, a cribber, and a hard keeper.

                I brought him to the local teaching hospital and had him euthed. I caught 20 kinds of hell for doing it, too. Funny though, no one who wanted to give me crap was willing to take him.

                It sucks with a young horse. But the alternative is a lifetime of pain. Help the owners do the right thing - it's the #1 responsibility we as owners hold... a dignified departure.


                • #9
                  Yes, a reasonable choice in the circumstances.

                  Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raa, Uma Paixo


                  • #10
                    I've done it, too, endlessclimb. Long story short, we couldn't get his laminitis under control, either. He had battled founder multiple times, had Cushings and been through colic surgery. Hardest thing I've ever done, but the only way I could keep him from being in pain again.
                    So, yes, OP, I would say that is a reasonable option to bring up with the vet. Sad, but probably the kindest end for him.
                    "Radar, the man's ex-cavalry: if he sees four flies having a meeting, he knows they're talking about a horse!" Cptn. BJ Hunnicutt, M*A*S*H Season 4, Episode "Dear Mildred"


                    • #11
                      1) Yes, euthanasia is always a responsible and reasonable choice if the alternative is that the animal suffers. Many good thoughts for your friend while she deals with this.

                      2) By osteochondrosis, do you mean osteochondrosis diseccans, aka OCD? And if so, have the rads been evaluated for surgery? I know you say limited remaining funds, but when a horse I vetted recently showed OCD in both hocks, my vet consulted with a surgeon for me and I was really surprised at how low the cost was. Not peanuts, but definitely within the realm of what I would consider reasonable to pay. No idea if this is an option - either physically for the horse or financially for your friend, but thought I'd bring it up based on my recent experience.


                      • Original Poster

                        Thank you for the advice. The horse really does have a quiet temperament and would probably be appropriate for a walking only trail home, but the question lingers---is the horse quiet because of pain? How painful is walking when trotting is clearly uncomfortable? Who would be willing to pay for expensive shoes and pain meds for a trail horse? The horse also stumbles frequently under saddle, which negates trail riding.

                        It's sad, because this horse was a horrible racehorse, so it seems like an unnecessary waste of life.


                        • #13
                          I certainly think euthanasia is reasonable, and probably the responsible choice, in a 4yo with this many issues. 3/5 lame is no way for a horse to live. And his options as a 4yo OTTB in a long term walk trail home are probably slim to none. A hard decision that none of us really wants to make, but it definitely sounds like your best option with the current set of circumstances.


                          • #14
                            It sucks, but yes euthanasia is definitely reasonable. I think we all need to stop focusing on age, and more on quality of life. I don't think it should matter if he's 4 or 24. It sounds like he's uncomfortable all the time, and chances are he'll end up in a not-so-great situation down the road.
                            I would never give up control of a horse with soundness issues (physical or mental). Either vow to keep them until it's time, or euth now.

                            Remember, they don't know what euthanasia and a quiet ending is. But they do know what pain is.


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by GoodTimes View Post
                              I don't think it should matter if he's 4 or 24. It sounds like he's uncomfortable all the time, and chances are he'll end up in a not-so-great situation down the road.
                              I agree that the quality of life should be the basis for the decision, not the age. I know of a couple OTTBs who have found great long-term homes even though they haven't been ridden in decades. Despite good care, they still look to be in at least some pain daily. I know I wouldn't hesitate to euth in this case.

                              Here is where age may factor in- if you are assessing surgery or other expensive therapies and the chances of a good recovery, which usually better with a young horse than an old one. It doesn't sound like this is the case here.

                              "So relax! Let's have some fun out here! This game's fun, OK? Fun goddamnit." Crash Davis; Bull Durham