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Does this seem reasonable? Deciding when it's time for old gelding

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    Does this seem reasonable? Deciding when it's time for old gelding

    So I have a retired senior gelding. He’s 28-29. He’s been on Prascend for almost 2 years now. He’s had issues with heaves on and off for about 6 years. That has been fairly well managed but this early summer he had a tough time and needed Dex to get through (which I know is not good with the cushings but it was necessary). This past winter I noticed his teeth seemed to be bothering him, not cleaning up hay as fast as he used to, figured he needed a float. The vet checked and said he really didn’t need a float but she thinks he’s in early stages of EORTH. After doing some research on that, it is obvious that he is. I don’t know how advanced it is, but you can visibly see it starting on his bottom teeth and his canine teeth on both sides needs to be scraped of encompassing plaque regularly. He still seems to be eating well enough, but he eats carrots gingerly. He isn’t thin but he’s really losing his topline and hindquarter muscle. I think his prascend dosage may need to be increased as he’s still on one pill a day which is what we started him on.

    Now all that being said, he’s still really sound and does all the horsey things you’d expect a horse to do. Listing all that it sounds like this horse is a wreck, he isn’t yet but I think I’d rather let him go before it gets to the point that he is. I plan to talk to the vet in a couple week when she’s out for fall vaccines about testing his ACTH again and increasing prascend if needed. I really think though that in my gut, I’d like to let him have a decent winter and spring and let him go before another hot and miserable summer. Summer is by far his worse season, he is miserable in the heat and bugs.

    Does that seem like a reasonable plan? Part of me knows it is completely reasonable, so much better to let him go when he’s feeling as good as possible rather than waiting for the cushings or EORTH or heaves to get worse but the other part of me feels like the vet is going to think I’m a horrible person for asking and won't agree to it. If that were to happen, the vet won't agree to put him down, then what do I do, just start calling till I find one that will? I know I could keep him going longer by just throwing money at this, pull his teeth, spend whatever is needed on supplements and prascend, etc. etc. but I know that is not the right thing for myself financially and it's only prolonging the inevitable for my horse. It feels like such a tough situation with an old friend that maybe to someone that doesn't know him would look at him and be like he's just old, he's fine. I know him though and he's not the same horse he was even a few years ago and I'd hate to let him go even a day longer than I should, he doesn't deserve that.

    #2
    Absolutely reasonable. You want to let your old friend go with dignity and peace. This article has always stuck with me and I hope it helps with your decision - interestingly, very similar situation to your own. https://www.chronofhorse.com/article...-on-a-good-day

    I try to think about my animals from my own perspective. I definitely wouldn't want my teeth pulled and to slowly lose weight and condition, hungry all the time. I think any good vet will understand this is a compassionate choice.

    Question tho - where are you located? I'm in the Northeast and our winters can be brutal on the older guys, which is something to consider.

    Comment


      #3
      Loved that article hybriseris, such down ti earth advice.
      "He's not even a good pathological liar." Mara

      "You're just a very desperate troll, and not even a good one. You're like middle-school troll at best. Like a goblin, not even a troll." et_fig

      Comment

        Original Poster

        #4
        Wow, yeah, that article is very similar to my current situation, thanks for linking it.

        I am in North Carolina and our past few winters have been really mild. Summer is the hardest season for my horse, it's hot and humid the bugs are so bad. Of course if he were to take a turn for the worse before next summer I'd let him go sooner but thought being he could have a (hopefully) nice fall, winter and spring before another long, hot summer. Realistically we still have a good 1.5 months before it starts to really cool off here as it is.

        Comment


          #5
          I think that is completely reasonable and I would be surprised if your vet questioned it.

          Comment


            #6
            Anything can happen between now and next summer. I would just tentatively plan for next summer and take it one day at a time. I had planned to put my old mare down this summer, but she's doing okay and it just didn't seem like her time. The last 2 years, I have been saying this will be the end... Trying to prepare mentally.

            This year she is needing more feedings to maintain her weight over summer. Pain medication daily. Still looking thinner than I like. I'm planning on getting some peanut hay in, to try and up her weight. Winter is much easier than summer. She can't stand the heat well and has to be put up first thing in the morning.

            I know we are at the end of the road with her. Every day that she is happy is a gift. Summers are rough with the heat and bugs.

            Comment


              #7
              Is your vet relatively new to you?

              I ask because if you have a long term relationship with your vet and have shown them that you are a sensible person who knows your horses they won't do more than ask "Are you sure?" They don't want to prop your horse up for months or years until you call with an emergency and they have to drop everything to come and euthanize your horse. Even the question "Are you sure?" will be more about your mental preparedness than about the horse's health.

              Here's another blog post about knowing when it's time:

              http://endgame-journeys-end.blogspot.com/?m=0

              That's my blog about euthanizing my second horse eleven years ago. He gave me the right question - don't ask "Can I keep him going?" but rather ask "Should I keep him going?"

              ​​​​​​Our winters are cold, snowy and icy. My biggest fear was that my horse would go down in the middle of the night and not be able to get back up with his hind end weakness.

              (((hugs)))

              Comment


                #8
                I've never known a vet to argue with 'better a day too soon than a moment too late.'

                You know him best. You know yourself best. Explain it to your vet. If they've been treating him all along, they shouldn't be surprised by the conversation, and they SHOULD be in agreement.

                I've got one right now who dropped a lot of weight last winter, and has taken all summer to put most of it back on. I am still wondering if I should put her down in October or so - she's still about 100 lbs too thin, and she hates blankets. But that's a conversation I feel comfortable having with my vet, because he knows her and her situation.

                Comment


                  #9
                  Better a day too early than a day too late. I sadly said goodbye to my two old retirees last month. The 27yo gelding was starting to decline; always a bright, happy attitude but his body was letting him down, losing topline and advancing DSLD. I had been mentally preparing myself for the upcoming decision for weeks...but he was still happy living out with my 22yo retired mare, so I waited.

                  Without warning, my mare developed Neuro symptoms. Could barely stand on her RH, staggered in circles to keep her balance. My husband was out if town for the weekend, and I had to wait 24 hrs for him to get home and manage the burial (it was complicated...we are moving in a few months, and I wanted them buried on the new property). It's FL summer, HOT, and...well I decided to wait until hubby got home

                  That final 12hrs was horrible. Watching my dear old mare FIGHT to stay upright, her fear knowing if she went down she wouldn't get back up. Drugs didn't help much. I sat with her all day and most of the night, holding her feed and water bucket to her nose so she could eat and drink. It was pure relief when the vet came that morning. I said goodbye to both of them, grateful they could go together and not suffer anxiety at being alone. It was comforting letting go of my old gelding on a good day, not nursing him along beyond his time.

                  I Never ever want to witness what my mare went through those final hours. Feed your horse 10lbs of mints and carrots, and let them go before they have a bad day.
                  A clever person solves a problem. A wise person avoids it.
                  ? Albert Einstein

                  ~AJ~

                  Comment


                    #10
                    My dear OP, unfortunately this is something that anyone that has had the good fortune to care for their horse in their old age has had to face. My oldest is 32, has cushings and was diagnosed with EPM two years ago. He doesn't look like the robust, easy keeper that he once was but he's sound, happy and opinionated. Summer is the worst for him too, but we are in PA so we are closing out on the hot season (hopefully). I've had him for twenty-six wonderful years and I believe he will tell me when he's done. Trust your gut and your instincts. You know your horse better than anyone and they tell us when it's their time. I know that day is fast approaching for me as well, but I take comfort in knowing our separation will be temporary and that I'll see him again one day. Also know that you gave him a lifetime of love and the concern you are showing now is evident of that fact. Not every horse is so lucky to have someone like you and I know when the time comes, you'll be able to make that decision knowing this.

                    I wish you strength, peace and wisdom
                    Be blessed..
                    )O(
                    "Some people will never like you because your spirit irritates their demons"

                    Comment


                      #11
                      This is a decision that I'm dreading having to make with my older gelding (32). He's been on a mash diet for years. He's been fully retired for about 6 years aside from the occasional kiddie ride. Has no topline, but eagerly nickers in the morning and night for food. He's still in the realm of air-fern, even at 32. Comes trotting/cantering up to the gate and is still sound. He's not on any pain medication. I test him every other year or so for cushings, but that hasn't been an issue yet. There's evidence that he lays down every night in his stall and rolls every morning in his paddock (he's a super sensitive horse, I've owned him for over 20 years and have only seen him laying down/sleeping about 4 times). If I see him down(and he doesn't immediately pop up), that would be a huge warning flag for me. He's been on minimally invasive vet care for years now (vaccines/dental work/nothing that would require shipping him to a clinic). There's been a couple times where I thought, "ok this is it", to find out that what he had was minor/not life threatening and easily treatable. My vet fully supports my decision. I could call her at any point to make an appointment to put him down and she wouldn't question it. We have a plan A and a plan B. Plan A involves me being proactive and making a decision before anything happens. Plan B is if we have some sort of emergency and can't get him on a trailer.

                      Comment

                        Original Poster

                        #12
                        I think part of my hesitation is I have not been using this vet for a super long time, I first used this practice fall of 2017, so 3 years now. My horse has always been a really healthy and sturdy type, I never needed a vet for anything other than vaccines and floating and I always used the barn vet at the boarding barn I was at currently. That was easiest especially since there was nothing complicated about him. Lucky, I know. When I moved on from the barn I had been at for a few years, he was now in his early 20s and I decided I'd like to just pick a vet and stick with that vet from here on out. Well that didn't work, I went through two more vets, one sold her practice and moved out of state and the other stopped doing equine work. Enter current vet, 3 years isn't a brand new relationship, but not an incredibly long one either. I really am not sure how she'll react to me saying I think I want to think about letting him go in the next several months.

                        I think a big part of me is feeling guilty/questioning how the conversation will go with the vet because I know some people, or even a lot of people, wouldn't be thinking of putting this horse down yet. I am seeing how he looks and acts today and he's just not the same horse as he once was. Then I'm looking to the future and thinking there really isn't much left that is going to be good for this guy, everything is only going to get worse. But for sure, I could just let him keep going till he does start losing weight, till his teeth get worse, till the cushings gets worse and maybe or even probably that would take a few years to get to that point. I can't help but think why let this go on for another few years when I'm not even sure how good he feels or how much he's enjoying life right now? That's the crux of it, really.

                        It's hard, and I know all of us here know that. We just want to do what's best but it's hard to always know what is best.

                        Comment


                          #13
                          FWIW, I think any reputable vet would trust that you know your horse and wouldn't question your decision, no matter how long you've known them. He's not a young horse with no issues. I can't imagine the stress that a vet goes through when they are racing to a "get here now" call vs one that is scheduled and premeditated.

                          We did this with my DD's OTTB. He had a pastern joint that had been fused and after five years, was going down hill fast. He was bright, beautiful and not that old, but he was slowly going downhill. He was a hard keeper and had lost weight. We knew with winter coming on, I didn't want to find him with a bad break, in pain or shock. We made the decision and picked a beautiful fall morning and we did it right where he was grazing with his friends. No stress, no panic on his part; he went quietly, quickly and with grace. I remember telling my daughter to let him go while he was still magnificent. He had too much pride to be anything less and I never wanted to see him suffer.
                          "Some people will never like you because your spirit irritates their demons"

                          Comment


                            #14
                            No vet will question you for wanting the best ending for your senior horse. Trust me. They see many of them in decline and WISH the owners would make the responsible choice, instead of the selfish one to keep them alive just suffer a little more.
                            A clever person solves a problem. A wise person avoids it.
                            ? Albert Einstein

                            ~AJ~

                            Comment

                              Original Poster

                              #15
                              Thank you all, I know you are more than likely right about the vet. It's probably my own questioning of the situation that's making me question what the vet will say. In any case, it'd be better to know now whether the vet will be supportive and get that question out of the way at least.

                              Comment


                                #16
                                Originally posted by Lah0808 View Post
                                Well that didn't work, I went through two more vets, one sold her practice and moved out of state and the other stopped doing equine work. Enter current vet, 3 years isn't a brand new relationship, but not an incredibly long one either. I really am not sure how she'll react to me saying I think I want to think about letting him go in the next several months.
                                Sorry you are having to go through this decision process. It is not easy.

                                How do you feel about this vet? Do you like her style and how she practices?

                                Many years ago, my mare had colic surgery (well, two 36 hours apart ). I met the surgeon for the first time the day after her first surgery. I knew I liked him... he'd take my calls every single weekday morning when I'd call to find out how she was doing (as long as I called before he got into surgery). Saturday mornings was one of my 'visit' days (she was at the hospital for four weeks). When he would see my car, he take the time to come out and talk to me.

                                I think it was the 3rd Saturday I got there, walked into the barn and she was flat out on her side. She didn't get up, she didn't even try to get up, she didn't even go sternal, she wouldn't even eat a baby carrot I put in her mouth and she *loved* carrots. I was in tears and sure, after everything we'd been through, that we were at the end of the road. Sure enough, her surgeon saw my car and came to talk to me. We had *that* talk and it was long. This was a patient/client/vet relationship of less than 3 weeks. At the end of the talk, I asked him if it was time to stop. He looked at me and told me he was glad we'd talked and that he had learned how I felt. He then told me that, no, he thought to wait and give her a bit more time; if he'd said stop, I would have agreed on the spot. 24 hours later she was up, one week later she came home and lived another 15 years.

                                If you feel a 'connection' to the vet, I don't think the length of time you've known the vet is critical in terms of having this very hard decision. Maybe having this talk is part of the connection for you. Don't let the length of time be the deterrent. If you get the feeling that this vet is a 'keep them going at all costs' then you've learned something and maybe this vet isn't the one for you. But, you won't know until you talk to her with your heart. The vet should learn how you feel and respect those feelings.

                                {{OP}}
                                Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth, And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings; John Gilliespie Magee, Jr

                                Comment

                                  Original Poster

                                  #17
                                  Originally posted by Where'sMyWhite View Post

                                  Sorry you are having to go through this decision process. It is not easy.

                                  How do you feel about this vet? Do you like her style and how she practices?

                                  Many years ago, my mare had colic surgery (well, two 36 hours apart ). I met the surgeon for the first time the day after her first surgery. I knew I liked him... he'd take my calls every single weekday morning when I'd call to find out how she was doing (as long as I called before he got into surgery). Saturday mornings was one of my 'visit' days (she was at the hospital for four weeks). When he would see my car, he take the time to come out and talk to me.

                                  I think it was the 3rd Saturday I got there, walked into the barn and she was flat out on her side. She didn't get up, she didn't even try to get up, she didn't even go sternal, she wouldn't even eat a baby carrot I put in her mouth and she *loved* carrots. I was in tears and sure, after everything we'd been through, that we were at the end of the road. Sure enough, her surgeon saw my car and came to talk to me. We had *that* talk and it was long. This was a patient/client/vet relationship of less than 3 weeks. At the end of the talk, I asked him if it was time to stop. He looked at me and told me he was glad we'd talked and that he had learned how I felt. He then told me that, no, he thought to wait and give her a bit more time; if he'd said stop, I would have agreed on the spot. 24 hours later she was up, one week later she came home and lived another 15 years.

                                  If you feel a 'connection' to the vet, I don't think the length of time you've known the vet is critical in terms of having this very hard decision. Maybe having this talk is part of the connection for you. Don't let the length of time be the deterrent. If you get the feeling that this vet is a 'keep them going at all costs' then you've learned something and maybe this vet isn't the one for you. But, you won't know until you talk to her with your heart. The vet should learn how you feel and respect those feelings.

                                  {{OP}}
                                  I feel the way you felt about the surgeon is the way I feel about my small animal vet. I wouldn't feel even slightly uncomfortable talking to her about this subject, although I guess I have known my small animal vet for several years now. Thank you for mentioning that because I really didn't even think about how I felt about the equine vet. I suppose I like her well enough but don't feel the same comfort level with her as I do with the small animal vet.

                                  Comment


                                    #18
                                    I went through a similar what-if the vet resists the idea of euthanasia agonizing when it was time to let my second horse go - I think I skipped that when writing the blog. I imagined entire conversations that came down to "How much does the horse have to be suffering before you're willing to relieve it?"

                                    But they ARE vets. They know what diseases are degenerative, and they know how bad things can get. They also know that you are going to ask them to treat the horse all the way through that degeneration. They know that it's all downhill from where your horse is. They know that you know if the horse is not the same as he once was.


                                    I have euthanized two horses. Both times the vets who had been that horse's primary vet made a point of telling me some time afterwards that they respected my decision and had no doubt that I knew it was time. Both times the barn owners were surprised when I gave notice for that horse because of impending euthanasia - the people who looked after my horse questioned me more than my vets.

                                    Try not to worry about it.

                                    Comment

                                      Original Poster

                                      #19
                                      Originally posted by RedHorses View Post
                                      I went through a similar what-if the vet resists the idea of euthanasia agonizing when it was time to let my second horse go - I think I skipped that when writing the blog. I imagined entire conversations that came down to "How much does the horse have to be suffering before you're willing to relieve it?"

                                      But they ARE vets. They know what diseases are degenerative, and they know how bad things can get. They also know that you are going to ask them to treat the horse all the way through that degeneration. They know that it's all downhill from where your horse is. They know that you know if the horse is not the same as he once was.


                                      I have euthanized two horses. Both times the vets who had been that horse's primary vet made a point of telling me some time afterwards that they respected my decision and had no doubt that I knew it was time. Both times the barn owners were surprised when I gave notice for that horse because of impending euthanasia - the people who looked after my horse questioned me more than my vets.

                                      Try not to worry about it.
                                      Thank you Redhorses, this is a perfect summary of what I'm feeling. How much suffering does there need to be is the question and it should be up to each of us to make that determination for our own animals.

                                      Comment

                                        Original Poster

                                        #20
                                        Update to this thread...you all were absolutely correct about my vet. I talked to her at our fall shot appointment and she was totally fine with my feeling that I'd rather let him go on a great day when he's feeling good rather than wait till he's really starting to fall apart. She thinks he's still doing pretty ok at the moment and ironically she's more concerned about some melanomas he's had that seem to be growing faster lately than she is his teeth. I'm just going to keep monitoring, we're checking his ACTH levels to see if his prascend needs to be adjusted but I feel relief in knowing that she's not going to question me when I decide it's time. Thank you all again for reassuring me that would more than likely be the case, it really helped me to not be so anxious going into the conversation with her. Hoping my old man has some comfortable days ahead in the fall weather that is heading our way.

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