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Practical questions about euthanasia

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  • Practical questions about euthanasia

    I'm putting my old gelding down tomorrow, and I wanted to know if anyone could tell me what to expect. I'm going to ask my vet to administer a sedative first. But in terms of timing, etc, how long does this take? Do we administer the sedative and then wait ten minutes? Or are the shots back-to-back? And once the final drug is administered, how long does it take to kick in? I'm assuming there has to be enough time for the vet to remove the needle from the vein... And does the horse just drop like a stone?

    Thanks for your input - I'm just trying to get a handle on what to expect tomorrow morning.
    In memory of Rebuff (1974-2009)

    Rest in peace, my sweet man

  • #2
    When I put my mare down she was sedated first. Then after 5-10min we walked her to the place of "lay". She was then given additional sedative - enough so that we could lay her down on her side. (3 people - on knees first - then bum then rolled on side - very calmly)
    This was when the vet let me talk to her for about 15-20 seconds with me caressing her head and then she administered the drug. I continued talking and then she was gone within 20-30 seconds. When they pass, they will continue to make little gasps after they are gone. This is the lungs. They are not still alive, but these noises are a little weird.

    I send my thoughts that your gelding passes peacefully. He will. You are doing him kindness.

    Member of the Standardbreds with Saddles Clique!
    LouLove - OTTB - 1992-2008...miss you my pretty red girl...
    Wilde! NEW - OTTSTB - 2004 Gelding...my heart's new journey...


    • #3
      I'm so sorry... I hope it is peaceful.

      A good vet will do their best to make it peaceful, but to be prepared is a good thing. It's a difficult topic, but you are so right to want to know what to expect.

      My vet gives a very strong sedative IV first. I've never asked which. The horse gets very sleepy. The wait here is maybe five minutes or so? Not terribly long.

      Then he gives the blue stuff. The last one, she laid down very gracefully, did not fall, and honestly, I don't remember if it was pre-blue stuff or not. She laid down as if to go to sleep... she did not go all the way over until the second dose of blue stuff, I DO remember that. He tries to be very, very quick about changing between syringes, I'm sure that's a humane issue, to be sure they get all of the dose as evenly as possible.

      Sometimes they do fall. If you are going to have a tough time (emotionally) getting the halter off and you want to save it, put on a cheap halter, because sometimes they go down in an awkward way. I think if they go down 'hard' that is difficult, but you have to remember, they are past feeling it.

      Occasionaly a horse will struggle to get up, but that is *usually* those that have not had a good, strong tranq first. I think emotionally that is the hardest to deal with, and thankfully I have not personally had to deal with it.

      My experience has been if the horse is ready, it has been very peaceful. The relief is almost immediate for me. Then of course the guilt that I feel relieved.

      Thoughts and prayers for you that it is peaceful for both of you.

      My last one, she took breaths for a very, very long time. She was well gone (the vet checks their eye for that) but she had great big lungs and heart. I felt kind of silly, telling her to let go... when the *vet* knew she was gone. But I stayed until a few minutes after the last expiration.
      InnisFailte Pinto Sporthorses & Coloured Cobs

      Bits are like cats, what's one more? (Petstorejunkie)


      • #4
        My experience was about the same as LouLove's, but my mare was sedated and within 5 minutes given the drug while she was standing up. My vet who is a very tall man, layed her down-she sat down basically, but she was already very weak-then she was gone within 30 seconds. Luckily she did not make the gasping noises, but my vet warned me that she could. My vet told me all that was going to happen before he did anything, which helped immensely. I had never been through this before, but he made it as easy as it could possibly be.

        I hope he goes peacefully, and I'm very sorry for your loss.


        • #5
          My mare was already down, but I asked the vet to sedate her first (and my exact words were), " Can we sedate her first? 'Cuz if she fights it, it's gonna be ugly."

          Vet said they anethasizeize (sp?????) just like they would for surgery before giving the killing drug. Sounded like that was SOP for them. Looking at the bill, I'm sure this was as much to maximize his profit as to pretty it up for the owner, but that's neither here nor there.

          Vet said I was right about her fighting it when he pulled out the THIRD syringe of pink juice, having checked her heart after two.

          From first sedating shot (she went from alert to woozey before all of the sedative was in) to anesthetic shot was fairly brief -- maybe just long enough for him to stand up and figure out which of the assistant's handful of syringes of he wanted next, and the killing juice was right after that, two syringes in immediate succession, then pull the needle out and check heart (still beating), pull third syringe, re-insert needle and injected it.

          The longest part was him sitting around afterward to make sure she didn't come back to life. I suppose that was at least ten minutes, might have been fifteen or twenty. I'm pretty sure he wasn't on the farm even half an hour.


          • #6
            I will be thinking of you.

            Chutney was ready to go. She lay down before the vet injected her, and it was very peaceful. I'm hoping that Rebuff's passing will be the same.

            In loving memory of Chutney (1977 - 2008)


            • #7
              Well, this is the first time I've written about it, him being put down that is. It was a little different as he was having a problem (I think it was adhesions) and he was in a lot of pain.

              He had been given some dormosedan (sp???) while we were trying to figure out what to do. It was a large dose, but he was through it in about 15 minutes or so ... we had decided to put him down just as he started to get uncomfortable.

              I was very very lucky as he had no twitches, sighs... nothing. He was lying down on his side and we were right there stroking him and loving him...he had given up, and if he could have cried he would have. As soon as the first part of the pink stuff hit him, he relaxed—I'm sure it was the relief of pain...and then he just quietly fell asleep. It took a while for his heart to stop beating ... and I thought I would stop breathing myself it hurt so much.

              I'm so sorry ... I know I did the right thing for him—as you are doing the right thing for your boy. And I'm so glad I could be with him—no matter how much it hurt me—so he knew he was loved and he was not afraid.

              Just tell him you'll see him later ... that's what I told my boy.
              "For God hates utterly
              The bray of bragging tongues."
              Sophocles, Antigone Spoken by the Leader of the Chorus of Theban Elders


              • #8
                Lacey's was pretty much the same. Vet gave her a sedative first. With her arthritic hocks, it had been several years since she laid down so "force of habit, " I 'm sure, everything was "locked" in place and after the final drug she just fell over. That was the worst part, but at that point she was beyond knowing and her vet held her halter to lessen the impact, which was at the point I lost it. Within seconds her heart had stopped. It was very peaceful. With some there are "twitches", but it's mechanical- they are no longer with us. Some will go down different that others. My old, old girl ( down in 1996?) just laid down as if to sleep- very quietly. My old pony who hated vets tried to bite his vet at the moment of injection. A stinker To the end .He had a terrible colic at age 28 and couldn't be saved, but was true to form! He still went down quietly. So very sorry for you . You did the right thing at the right time. Accept it and move on. Remember the good times .


                • Original Poster

                  Thank you

                  Thank you all SO much for your responses. I know it can't be easy reliving your horses' last moments, but it's a real gift to me (and my family - we'll all be there and I've forwarded the link to this thread to them so they'll know what to hopefully expect).

                  So that the truck from the cremation service can get him afterwards, we're going to put him down in the driveway in front of the barn. I bought two big bales of straw and we're going to make a little 'bed' on the driveway, so that he doesn't have to go down on a hard surface. Hopefully it will be very peaceful and quick for him.

                  Again, thank you for sharing your experieinces - it's been a huge help.
                  In memory of Rebuff (1974-2009)

                  Rest in peace, my sweet man


                  • #10
                    Thoughts are with you!

                    The best thing to do is ask your vet beforehand what to expect as for timing and result of the tranq.

                    When a friend euthanized her horse, we were told to walk him back so he would sit down, before giving him the final shot.

                    When we had to put ours down, after the tranq he just laid down as if going to sleep - to me, this was just better.

                    I will take a few minutes before the final air comes out...he'll look as if he just went to sleep.

                    We'll all be thinking of you...


                    • #11

                      Much like the others...when I put my BuddyRoo down, we administered a sedative first, then the pentobarb.

                      A big animal going down can be difficult no matter the precautions. Probably the best piece of advice I can give you after attending to several last moments is to consider having a good friend there in case you are having trouble keeping it together. A good friend can also kind of straighten things up for you after so that you can spend some time w/ your oldie afterwards without the blood or contorted positioning.

                      I have assisted in several and I think that is an image none of us want burned in our brain. But more to the point, staying calm for your horse is a must.

                      I would also get a tarp or big blanket so that you may cover your horse up before you leave. I know it doesn't "matter"...but it mattered to me.

                      A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

                      Might be a reason, never an excuse...


                      • #12
                        Ugh, just went through this a week ago, but I can't thank my vet enough for how he handled it. He also sedated him and gave us about five minutes or so as it kicked in for everyone to say their final goodbyes, etc.... and as his head hung lower and lower and we held it up he came up and gave the two blue shots, if I didn't know he had two syringes I wouldn't know he did two, he was so quick. He then watched closely and asked us to move back and stood in front of him swaying kind of - and when Hottie started to go down leaned into that direction with him so he just sort of laid down rather then fell. He also held on to his halter and laid his head down gently. Hottie's back legs went first, but I don't know how much of that is because of the vet helping. All in all less than a minute from when he injected, and it was very peaceful.

                        Hottie did have the twitching/gasping but it took about 3-4 minutes for that and everyone else had pretty much left. It was just me and the vet and one other person, but it wasn't traumatic.

                        The vet also tried to close Hottie's eye before he left, and cried with us when he actually went down. This was a four year old Morgan so it was really hard. All in all I am thought he handled it amazingly.
                        If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude.
                        ~ Maya Angelou


                        • #13
                          Bless you for thinking of your boy and wanting to stay with him to see him out this one last time.

                          Like others have said, the process takes just minutes.
                          For me - aside from the obvious heartbreak - it was not at all unnnerving to stay and observe.

                          My guy was at the vet hospital and I was allowed to go into the very large (16X16?) stall with 3 vet techs and the vet to lay him down after the sedative was administered.
                          He just sort of folded gently to his knees and then flat out with me cradling his head. The vet then gave him the euth IV and it was over in what seemed like seconds.
                          I had to close his eyes, and did so after the vet assured me he was gone.

                          I hope all goes as peacefully for you & your OldGuy
                          Know that a whole lot of COTH hearts will be there with you tomorrow.
                          And if you want to, please make sure to take a lock of tail hair as a remembrance.
                          *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
                          Steppin' Out 1988-2004
                          Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
                          Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015


                          • Original Poster

                            Tif Ann, I'm so, so sorry about Hottie, but I'm glad that your vet was so wonderful doing the whole experience. One of my favorite vets will here tomorrow and I hope that our experience is as peaceful.

                            BuddyRoo, thanks for the excellent advice. There will actually be several of us here - family plus a close friend - and I know that we'll all get through it together. I also know that I can fall apart and they'll take care of the details, if need be. My mom is bringing a king-size blanket from her bed to cover Rebuff while we wait for the truck, and I'll probably sit with him until the cremation service gets there. It's kind of like a horrible, terrible dream, but I'm glad that we've prepared as much as possible.
                            In memory of Rebuff (1974-2009)

                            Rest in peace, my sweet man


                            • #15
                              It will help to have friends, that's for sure. Hottie was my sister's boyfriend's horse but we all loved him so it was definitely hard. I managed to hold it together until he was gone when I lost it. I just held his head and rubbed his neck and cheek and kept telling him how brave he was and what a good boy he was.

                              It's so much harder to face this decision when it's "For the horse's good" rather than emergent, but I guess that's where the "take their pain and make it yours" comes in. Just love your old guy, let yourself feel the emotions, and think of him running free and happy without pain or problems. Hey, someone needs to watch our little boy up there
                              If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude.
                              ~ Maya Angelou


                              • #16
                                Oh honey. I'm so sorry. I'm glad you have lots of support.

                                When I did it, I was alone. But that's what I wanted. I didn't want to console anyone else. I wanted it to just be him and me...like we'd been for so long. I sat for a long time with my BuddyRoo's head in my lap in the mud and rain--it was February....Feb 8 05 to be exact and even with many under my belt to that point, it still just sucked.

                                He was in my life for over 25 years.

                                It's always hard to let them go....
                                A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

                                Might be a reason, never an excuse...


                                • #17
                                  I'm sorry to hear that you are putting your friend down. *HUGS*

                                  Worst part for me was the last breaths and her legs moving and ears twitching. The breaths killed me as I didn't know to expect them and I was telling her to just hurry up and go as my heart was breaking. Vet then told me that the breaths were normal. I will never forget those last exhales for as long as I live.
                                  Missouri Fox Trotters-To ride one is to own one

                                  Standardbreds, so much more then a harness racing horse.


                                  • #18
                                    I'm so sorry. The benefit to animal ownership is we can step in and give them a peaceful end so they don't have to suffer more than necessary. I've had to put two down of my own. One was down (he had EMND or is it ENMD?) and she just gave him the first shot and he just went to sleep and she gave him the second one and in he was gone in less than a minute. Very peaceful.

                                    The next one had congestive heart failure and he did not want to sedate her because her blood pressure was already so low it would take longer to get it to her brain. He gave her the first shot and in about 1 second she shut her eyes and was gone. It is hard to explain but you can almost (almost) see the life passing from them and it is peaceful. She did collapse of course and we used the lead rope to guide her down (sometimes they come forwards though so don't stand too close) but that didn't bother me because I knew she was gone mentally already. He gave her another shot and her heart stopped and the whole thing was quiet and only took about 2 minutes from first shot to heart stop. Some younger horses may take more time for the heart/breathing to fully stop but the horse is deeply unconscious just as you would be on the operating table. You may hear some gasping/groaning noises as the air exits esp. in a large animal dropping, these are not conscious noises. The horse is not aware if it falls or spasms afterwards and this is not uncommon in ANY animal (people too) as nerves sometimes take a while to stop firing, the animal does NOT feel this any more than you would if you fell off the operating table after you were unconscious. It is important that the horse be given enough to send him off to dreamland instantly in the first shot though. And the vet should make absolutely sure there are no life responses before he/she leaves.

                                    I've been present at thousands of euthanasias now and I've yet to see one go wrong. I know some people say they have but because they didn't elaborate I'm not sure if what they were seeing was a bad euthanasia or just the after spasms.
                                    Every mighty oak was once a nut that stood its ground.

                                    Proud Closet Canterer! Member Riders with Fibromyalgia clique.


                                    • #19
                                      I am so sorry you are dealing with this, but commend you for your strength in being able to make the decision. Your vet will probably take him from you to get him on the ground. It is much safer that way. Like Buddyroo said, if you start to lose it, walk away. Your boy has known a great life, and as far as he knows this is just a shot, no biggie. He won't be scared as long as everyone around him is ok. The getting to the ground is difficult. Just know, if it he doesn't go down easy, he is already out of it. It's so hard with old ones that have physical issues, because stuff doesn't work like it used to. The breathing always gets me. They are already gone, though. I also wouldn't reccomend being out there when they pick him up. It's just a shell.
                                      Just know you have given him everything you can, including a dignified and painless end. It is the final gift of love, that is so hard for us. I will be thinking of you tonight and tomorrow and wishing him a swift and easy journey. You have been a great horse mom.


                                      • #20
                                        These stories are kinder than when our pony had to go. I was there, stroking her, he gave her a shot and seconds later she crashed to the ground, lifeless. Not that she cared, I guess, but I was horrified and unprepared. Hugs, be strong.
                                        Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique