When to have an old horse put down

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Advice on equine euthanasia

Part of the responsibility of owning a veteran horse is providing for a peaceful, pain-free end. It is a decision that every horse owner will need to have the courage to face

When dealing with an ageing horse it is important to pay particular attention to its quality of life. Can it express its normal behaviour? Is it in constant pain? Are its basic needs being met?

The following checklist indicates some of the signs that a horse may be nearing the end of its life:

Getting cast frequently in the box or out at pasture

• Requiring assistance to rise

• Developing sores over pressure points such as the elbows or pelvis

• Severe weight loss

• Loss of teeth, making eating difficult

• Severe lameness not alleviated by painkillers or appropriate treatment

• Severe, ongoing laminitis which does not respond to treatment — this may be the case in horses affected by Cushing’s disease

• Recurrent colic

For the full article on caring for veteran horses, see the current issue of Horse & Hound (3 June, ’10)

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