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Non emergency euthanasia considerations

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  • Non emergency euthanasia considerations

    I am new here, but am hoping for some input on this issue.

    Now I am faced with considering euthanasia in a non-emergency situation. This horse is only 9, but is incurably lame. Not a little off, but very lame. He has severe cartilege damage on two surfaces of his stifle, and his treatment has included countless injections, surgery, lithitripsy and stem cell therapy. This is not a matter for more second opinions, the issue is very well defined, just not treatable to give him a comfortable life. He is about grade 4 lame-- he lopes on 3 legs to avoid contact with the fourth. When he is still for a while, the first steps are very painful.

    While it is clear we are unable to make him comfortable-and in fact he is painful-- he does not appear to have given up. He is interested in his life, he eats well, he appears happy (ears up, bright eyes). There are days where the pain of moving makes him lurch, grunt, pin his ears when he uses the bad leg-- but then those ears are back up, and he wants to be petted, or fed treats. There are other days-- not as frequent-- when he chooses to play and moves around comfortably. The bad days do outnumber the good. Bute does not make any noticable difference.

    He is not a danger to himself, he has not given up. He is holding weight, and generally looks good. This seems inconsistent with his pain, but it is the fact. But he is painful, and there is no realistic hope that he will ever get better. At some point, I realize he could blow out the good hind leg. But right now, even though he cannot move around comfortably, he does move around and he does seem to be happy.

    Has anyone dealt with this type of decision? I am really struggling with knowing what is right for him. It is very hard for me to see him this way, and know it is hopeless. At the same time, it is not fair to euthanize him to avoid my own pain! I feel guilty for all he has endured for the last year as we tried everything in hopes of getting him comfortable, and as such wonder if now that it is clear that there is no hope-- should I euthanize? But another part of me looks at his happy face-- ridiculous under his circumstances-- and can't stand the thought that he could think I sent him away/killed him before he was ready to go. If he were lethargic, choosing not to stand, dropping weight, etc it would be clear. That's not the case now, and I would not want to let it get that far, in fairness to him/quality of life considerations. I am just at a loss.

    If you've been in a similar situation, how did you decide? What was your defining moment, or sign to know when it was time? If you have experience in this type of thing, I would appreciate your thoughts.
  • Original Poster

    #2
    I am new here, but am hoping for some input on this issue.

    Now I am faced with considering euthanasia in a non-emergency situation. This horse is only 9, but is incurably lame. Not a little off, but very lame. He has severe cartilege damage on two surfaces of his stifle, and his treatment has included countless injections, surgery, lithitripsy and stem cell therapy. This is not a matter for more second opinions, the issue is very well defined, just not treatable to give him a comfortable life. He is about grade 4 lame-- he lopes on 3 legs to avoid contact with the fourth. When he is still for a while, the first steps are very painful.

    While it is clear we are unable to make him comfortable-and in fact he is painful-- he does not appear to have given up. He is interested in his life, he eats well, he appears happy (ears up, bright eyes). There are days where the pain of moving makes him lurch, grunt, pin his ears when he uses the bad leg-- but then those ears are back up, and he wants to be petted, or fed treats. There are other days-- not as frequent-- when he chooses to play and moves around comfortably. The bad days do outnumber the good. Bute does not make any noticable difference.

    He is not a danger to himself, he has not given up. He is holding weight, and generally looks good. This seems inconsistent with his pain, but it is the fact. But he is painful, and there is no realistic hope that he will ever get better. At some point, I realize he could blow out the good hind leg. But right now, even though he cannot move around comfortably, he does move around and he does seem to be happy.

    Has anyone dealt with this type of decision? I am really struggling with knowing what is right for him. It is very hard for me to see him this way, and know it is hopeless. At the same time, it is not fair to euthanize him to avoid my own pain! I feel guilty for all he has endured for the last year as we tried everything in hopes of getting him comfortable, and as such wonder if now that it is clear that there is no hope-- should I euthanize? But another part of me looks at his happy face-- ridiculous under his circumstances-- and can't stand the thought that he could think I sent him away/killed him before he was ready to go. If he were lethargic, choosing not to stand, dropping weight, etc it would be clear. That's not the case now, and I would not want to let it get that far, in fairness to him/quality of life considerations. I am just at a loss.

    If you've been in a similar situation, how did you decide? What was your defining moment, or sign to know when it was time? If you have experience in this type of thing, I would appreciate your thoughts.

    Comment


    • #3
      I get the impression you are preparing yourself for the inevitable. It sounds like you are considering all your options and weighing them carefully. And I think you have answered your own question:

      "That's not the case now, and I would not want to let it get that far, in fairness to him/quality of life considerations."

      You know this horse better than anyone. You will know when it is time.

      I am sorry you are facing such a tough decision. You'll do the right thing.
      "My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we'll change the world." ~ Jack Layton

      Comment


      • #4
        wow what a tough decision and i am very sorry you must endure this. First off i think you just need to sit down, relax, and maybe even talk to your vet to see what the best option may be. Is it fair for him? Just review your options thoroughly, talk to your vet, talk to another vet. View the whole picture. Hope things work out for the better, good luck, and im very sorry

        Comment


        • #5
          I have a similar situation, a teen-aged gelding who has had a couple of Cushings-related laminitis episodes, one of which was very, very expensive. The horse is retired due to a combination of conditions, this is only one of his issues. I can only afford to keep two horses, so he holds me back from moving on to a new youngster (in addition to my current riding horse) or getting a schoolie for my college equestrian club to use. At the last lameness episode--turned out to be bilateral abscesses rather than laminitis--I told the vet and farrier that there would be no heroics, if it gets to "that point", we'd plant him in the ground.

          But, it didn't get to that point, and now the horse is in a solid "remission". Like yours, he's happy, enjoys his food, plus he gets around fine. So, he continues to consume resources and take up space. In spite of incredible pain during the abscess episode--we thought it was laminitis, so he was off his regular dose of bute, so his neck arthritis rendered his neck unbendable; the lack of movement incapacitated his EPSM muscles in the back end; he was basicly lame, immobile and weak everywhere--his attitude stayed cheery, he kept a decent appetite. He just wasn't ready to give up.

          So, he's still here. And here he will stay until he does have an episode from which there is no hope of recovery, or he tells me it is time. I went thru he!! last year trying to decide what was the best, economically and practically and humanely, and am now at peace with the big lunk as a pasture ornament.

          Your case is different because of the chronic pain, and I'm sure your horse feels some insecurity due to his compromised flight response. But if you listen, he will tell you the answer. At some point, you may need to make a decision about the balance of good days and bad days, or the other (really) tough one, the economic consideration decision. When that time comes, there are only two individuals involved in the decision, you and the horse. If the rest of us have any role at all, it's to stand by and support you in whatever decision you make--no explanations, no rationalizations, no apologies needed.

          I think good attitude and appetite are important indicators. It doesn't sound like your guy is ready to give up yet; you never know when that will change, and it can happen in a heartbeat. Until then, the other factors are the dreaded economic one, and, again, only you can make that decision--but, it IS a valid consideration, a very unpleasant one, but thoroughly valid, don't let yourself be afraid to confront it.

          Good luck with your situation. You certainly have my sympathy. Your blessing and curse is that you have time to make a decision, but it probably won't be a decision that gets made for you. Keep in touch if you need to talk it through some more, or when you need some people to lean on.
          "One person's cowboy is another person's blooming idiot" -- katarine

          Spay and neuter. Please.

          Comment


          • #6
            Hi

            I think you have already decided, but would like some help(agreement) with the decision.
            This is never an easy one to make, we put down an old friend that we had rescued a few years ago. We made the choice before waking up one morning to find him down, or injured.
            It is doubtful he would have made it thru the winter. There were no defining moments, just alot of little ones.
            I think even the other horses knew it was his time, they babied him along, waited for him, went to him when he called.
            We gave him the best life we could, and gave him an ending with dignity.
            Maureen

            Comment


            • #7
              What a wonderful and caring owner you are! I'm sure you've already spoken with your vet. But, you know your horse. From what you're saying, it doesn't appear the he's told you it is time yet...It sounds like whenever you decide it's time will be the "right" time - don't second guess yourself. He won't.

              That said, you don't want to wait "too long" either.

              I'm sorry - not much help here...

              {{{{ HUGS }}}} to you!
              \"Riding a horse is not a gentle hobby, to be picked up and laid down like a game of solitaire. It is a grand passion. It seizes a person whole and, once it has done so, he will have to accept that his life will be radically changed.\" -- Ralph Waldo E

              Comment


              • #8
                If HE is not ready to give up, and YOU are in a position to keep him, you have nothing to lose by just turning him out, taking care of him, and giving Nature a chance.

                I've been here with a much older horse, and after a couple of pretty bad years -- bad enough that I was contemplating putting her down -- she's now doing pretty good.

                Her arthritis limits her greatly, but doing what she CAN do (which is no longer galloping full-tilt with the herd, but instead a dainty little caper in the yard), she is fairly (though not 100%)comfortable and seems happy enough. My guess is that something in her joint (knee) has fused and is no longer causing the degree of pain it once did.

                She has "perks" now that she never had as a herd horse. She lives in the yard eating whatever she wants, greeting everybody at the door, and begging scratchies and cuddles. She can socialize with various other horses over the fence (or not) as she pleases, and is obliged to defer to none of them. She doesn't seem to think it's been a bad trade.

                Comment


                • #9
                  We had to make a similar choice with my daughter's 9 yr old gelding. We had tried everything short of a cadaver joint transplant, but he would hurt himself just turning around in his stall. He was happy to eat all that he was offered, and as a big, "full bodied" horse, the vets said it was only a matter of time until he was lame on another leg. We sadly chose to let him go.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">The bad days do outnumber the good. Bute does not make any noticable difference </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

                    That observation would allow me to make the appointment.

                    "and can't stand the thought that he could think I sent him away/killed him before he was ready to go."

                    Horse don't think like that but if they did I suspect the day after you let him go he would look down from heaven and say "Thank you Master for letting me go in peace."

                    Hugs to you as you work through all the issues with your sweet guy.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      You are certainly to be commended for caring about his quality of life.
                      That said, you know there is no hope of him being comfortable.
                      While he still is dealing with what is dealt to him, he will not miss a day should you chose to let him go sooner rather than later. He is not thinking "it really hurts to move around, but I don't want to die" They don't think the way we do. He will not regret it if you choose to let go. He will be OK.
                      In my horse's case, I knew by his lack of reacation to the bleeding that he was not bothered as I was. But the day his breathing became compromised and I thought he might be afraid, I made the choice to let him go. I don't regret the time I kept him here nor the day I let him go. I did know. I think you will too.
                      We had one old dog we kept a day or two too long. It would have been far better to have been brave and let her go a day too soon.
                      Giant hugs to you from someone else who has been there.
                      I\'m not crazy. I\'m just a little unwell.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I have had to put down a few horses in my time, but the one thing that I always think of is something that I heard many years ago, so long ago I don't even remember where. "Better a month too early than a day too late". In a situation such as yours, my criteria has been to help them on their journey when the bad days start to outnumber the good.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I am pretty sure that if I were a horse, anyone seeing me get up in the morning would think it a kindness to put me down Lots of knee surgeries leave me hobbling around in a rather pitiful manner a lot of the time.

                          It's not like these conditions get a lot better over time, but honestly it is never top of mind. I get around OK, ride just fine, eat like the proverbial horse... I am happy as a clam. Soundness is overrated as a barometer of happiness

                          If your horse is still happy, eating well and getting around, even if somewhat gimpy... it sounds to me like it isn't time yet. As others have said, when it's time, they DO tell you. You will just know.

                          Hugs for taking care of this guy and giving him the supportive care that makes him perk his ears and look for treats.
                          **********
                          We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.
                          -PaulaEdwina

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Big Cyber ((((((Hugs)))) to you! Your a wonderful owner! If there are good days, like you have said, and he looks good and still loves life! I would take it day to day! like everyone else said you will know, he will tell you. I assume you have him on some kind of daily pain reliever?? You love him and are doing the best for him. ITs never easy, I have had to put down 3 in my lifetime, all from Horrible circumstances. I cant say what you are going through is any easier! The best to you.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              westernrider, you are a brave and loving owner to be thinking of this.

                              "Knowing" the right time is never easy when it's a case of a decision, not an emergency or immediate pending fatality. From what you've written, I think you will know when it's the proper time.

                              When the bad days outnumber the good...when the grimace of pain becomes a constant mask...when the moments of sunshine are few. You may decide and on the day have a good day -- don't mourn or second guess yourself but try to accept that a wonderful last gift, and enjoy it.

                              Blessings to you for being able to be compassionate about this, and hugs that you have to go through it.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                In November 2003, one of my TB geldings injured himself in the pasture, tearing the short lateral collateral ligament in his right hock. Diagnostics suggested the tear was too great to heal properly, meaning the joint would be permanently destabilized. I nursed him through months of stall rest and limited turnout, with NSAIDs to deal with pain and inflammation. He had raced for eight years and owed nothing, so I wanted to give him a chance, even if all he could do was look pretty in the pasture. Unfortunately, after several up and down episodes of healing and re-injury (once he was allowed back on pasture), he reacted to a last-ditch try at steroid injections with a painful laminitis (July 2004). At that point, I decided I would just carefully watch... for his stoic attitude to change... for his appetite to change... for the swelling (now the whole hind leg) to remain unresolved... for his demeanor (just like your guy - alert and interested but occasionally irritated at his infirmity) to change. Although the laminitis resolved with no founder, he was never quite the same. A horse born to run, he most often walked when he wanted to go somewhere. Daily, I searched his eyes for any sign. And finally he told me. I had been talking to him while I was cleaning stalls - it was his habit to wander in from the field and stand in the end of the barn to keep me company. I told him I felt badly he was still hurt and told him I was thinking that maybe it was time for him to go. I told him there would be friends to greet him, and that he would be able to run again without pain. And you know what? When I said that, he turned and looked directly at me... walked to the stall bars and stared and said, "yes, that's what I want". It was so clear it still startles me to remember it. So I gave him another week of sunshine and nice weather and good grass, then let him go.

                                Talk to your horse. Ask him. And tell him it's okay if he needs to leave. I hope he'll answer you as clearly as Sid did for me. It really helped me through a decision all of us dread.
                                ----------------
                                What we hope ever to do with ease, we must learn first to do with diligence.
                                - Samuel Jackson

                                Comment

                                • Original Poster

                                  #17
                                  I just want to thank each and every one of you for taking time to help a stranger with a sad situation. You are giving me helpful things to consider and incorporate in my decision making process.

                                  My previous euthanasias have been in emergency/clear cut situations, where there was no question. In this geldings case, it is clear that euthanasia will be required, it's just a matter of "when". I hope those of you who are sure that I will know when its time, are right.... right now, I am not sure I will know and am very concerned that I get it right, for his sake.

                                  I have wondered whether I should avoid the worst of winter... as he is typically worse on cold days, due to his arthritic changes. If it's hopeless, and euthanasia is inevitable, then I certainly would not want to purposefully put him through a "bad spell".

                                  Oh, I have discussed this at length with the vet. He is a wonderful and compassionate man, one who never wants to give up on a horse. He is in agreement that we have not made him comfortable in spite of pursuing every possible option. He says all we can do is support the joint, right now our plan is HA and Adequan directly in the stifle-- frequently. He also agrees that the horse has not given up-- he says he is a remarkable horse. This horse will not let us twitch him anymore, but stands quietly for his joints to be blocked and injected. On his lamest days, he gamely gets in the trailer to go to the vet, and is happy to see all the vet techs. He's such a good boy.

                                  The financial consideration is also a good point. I have struggled with this, as his vet, board, rehab, treatments etc have been about $15,000 this year even after discounts from the vet. I have had to make some sacrifices, give up some other things to cover what he needs but I have decided that I will NOT let finances be a factor in the timing. It would be practical, but I would not be able to look myself in the eye. (I did incur every bit of this with no real hope of him ever being rideable, or serviceably sound. We were only trying for "comfortable"/pasture sound.)

                                  It seems that it may boil down to charting the good, OK and bad days... watching the trend. And hoping that I will know when the time comes. I was concerned about being able to travel (for shows, business, pleasure) this year, and was worried about not being there for him daily. But I will be able to leave him with the vet if I need to-- which of course will be the best oversite he could have.

                                  It is hard knowing that this must happen. I think it's harder knowing that timing is up to me. It makes it hard, perhaps impossible to enjoy him-- I look at him, and cannot hold back my tears. I have to get a grip on this, I don't want to upset him.

                                  Again, thank you so much for your caring and support. I guess I came to the right place.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    I dont really have any advice to you, other than what everyone else has said, but i want to send you HUGE ***Hugs*** and jingles that you make the best decisions. You are amazing to love him this much.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      I was in a similiar situation last year with my wonderful 5 year old gelding. He had a torn caudal cruciate ligament in his right stifle that would never get better, would put him at risk for greater injury and, he was faced with a future of crippling arthritis (not yet there but inevitable).

                                      I decided, after discussing it with my vet, my trainer and my spiritual guide, to euthanize him strong, vibrant and alive... before he injured himself severely at play, living a life where I guarded him from harm (which would have limited his life as a real horse) or crippled with aches and pains.

                                      His euthanasia was a beautiful, loving and kind event. He was surrounded by all who cared for him (me, trainer, vet and some very close friends). I saw it as freeing him and allowing his spirit to move on...

                                      No one doubted my love or devotion to him. I saw it as loving him that much to let him go.

                                      Yet, the decision is so personal. No one on any bulletin board or chat site can make the decision better or easier for you. And no one can judge you one way or another for making a choice. It's that personal.
                                      Live, Laugh, Love
                                      http://confessionsofanaaer.blogspot.com/

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        I went through a similar situation with a 9 year-old gelding. He never had great hoof quality, but suddenly it began to deteriorate and he grew NO hoof at all. None. For a year. What he did have began to wear away. We had to pull his shoes, as there was just no hoof wall to put new nails in. I had blood tests, x-rays done, etc. and nothing pointed to a problem. He was on excellent feed and every conceivable form of hoof supp and then drugs were tried over the years. I put easy boots on him every day just so he could hobble around a little. He hated being in a stall, and I had tried stall rest with no avail.

                                        I have my own farm - all I wanted was to get him to a point where he could be somewhat pasture sound. Glue-on shoes were considered but the blacksmith sat me down and said he felt if he pulled a shoe off he would take the remaining hoof wall with it.

                                        I was 6 months pregnant with twins at the time and had complications so I could not physically do too much more for him myself. Yet he was still eager to eat and whinnied for me every morning. I made the call we all hate knowing he hadn't told me it was his time yet. The vet (who soon left the practice) refused to come out and talked me into another month of meds against my better judgment by laying a guilt trip on me. What was said about better a month too soon than a day to late is so true. I looked out one day and saw him physically unable to walk in for water. He turned his back on the other horses and dropped what seemed like a hundred pounds in the course of 2 days. I got him into his stall and he never banged on the door to come out like he always had before. I deeply regret that he had to endure that.

                                        I still feel guilty that he never told me it was time, but I know I did the right thing for him and he was able to gallop over the bridge on 4 good hooves.

                                        You have to do what you feel is right. I'm sorry you have to make such a tough decision.
                                        "If a horse has a "warm" back—loose, supple and oscillating—he can lift the rider...on a "cold" back—low and stiff—the rider achieves nothing other than growing old sitting on it." —Charles de Kunffy

                                        Comment

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