Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Euthanization....how do we know it's time?

Here's the latest shot of Leland. I'm pretty happy with the little punk.

I've had a few things happen in the last few months which got me thinking about putting a horse down. When do we decide it's time and what are the reasons for it?

I am worried about the horse industry in general and especially about my own personal horses.

What will happen to them if they are not in my care? How many horses ended up in a can because I failed to make them a serviceable animal? Do some of them deserve to be euthanized because I failed as a trainer?

My biggest question is, Who the hell am I to decide whether a horse deserves to live or die? Is it simply ego talking if I assume I'm the only one who can be responsible for the horses I own?

My mare Loki is an example. If Loki colicked and the only chance for her to make it was surgery,I would put her down instead. Why? Because Loki comes from a line of horses who die from colic. She is a sensitive mare and gets colicky from stress, change or a bad scare. She colicked within 24 hours of having Leeland and was in severe pain for several hours. The vet wasn't particularly worried about her but he did say she could do this every time.

She does best on a pasture with no supplements except hay. In a stall she does well with free choice grass hay and a couple of flakes of alfalfa. Again, no grain or supplements. She loses weight easily and gains it back slowly.

Loki is a talented and lovely mare. I owe her a lot. She is the kind of horse you can hop on after months off and she'll just tool around nice as can be. I take care of her as best I can and would be broken hearted if I had to face the decision to operate on her or not. Because I wouldn't. There are so many things that can go wrong with a colic surgery it would only add to her list of ailments.

Leeland was born a bilateral cryptorchid. When I was pricing out his surgery I was really horrified. I kept getting bids from $1,200 to $2,300. In my mind this was a $1,000 colt. I was really stuck behind a rock an a hard place. To my mind, he was unlike Henry, Laura Crum's horse. Henry had proven himself and was also truly needed. I wasn't sure about my little colt, no matter how much I liked him.

It made me wonder how many of these colts end up at the sales, a situation I'll do anything to avoid.

Bilateral cryptorchids develop stud mannerisms, big old stud heads and are often stunted if they aren't gelded.. So you end up with a butt ugly pain-in-the-ass. I knew that wasn't an option.

I told my boss I was considering putting him down if I didn't figure something out.

She was horrified.

"Don't you have a credit card?" She asked me.

Keep in mind this is the paint breeder who is losing her house. She also has a yearling filly who was born deformed. She's incredibly crooked. The theory is she was too big for the mare she's out of. There have been thousands dumped into this filly. She will never be rideable. She is already showing signs of arthritis.

"I'm dragging myself out of a mountain of debt," I told her, "I don't use my credit card for anything any more. I have to figure out how I'm going to live when I'm old. I've made a few rules and I stick to them. One is no elective surgery on my horses unless I have the money in the bank. I don't."

I did work it out. I found out Leland was sterile so I could leave him on the pasture. I left him intact (or is that sucked up?) until he was two. I saved enough money to get him done after I found a vet that would do it for under $1,000. I made sure I could afford half again that much in case something went wrong. I also found help through a rescue (front range equine rescue) who reimbursed me 30% of my vet bill. They would have given me 50% back if I decided to euthanize him. They're great.

He's much happier now and so am I.

By facing the fact that I would put him down before I ran him through a sale I was able to get things in perspective. It also mobilized me so I found a way to get him done.

I feel I was being responsible for my horse.

When I moved from my last job as a trainer I decided to put my beloved 32-year-old Annie down. She was blind. She was arthritic. Was she reasonably happy? I think so.

But now I had to move her. She would have to get oriented again. She had to live through the fire of being established in a new herd. She had never tolerated being kept in a stall or run, I wasn't going to do that to her.

I feel I was responsible for my horse.

Then there are the horses I couldn't ride. If you read the Captain story you know how I felt about him. I knew I could ride him, but he kept hurting everybody else. I felt he was a danger to himself and others. I felt he should have been put down. His owner told me she regretted not having him destroyed.

BUT... She gave him to a John Lyons trainer. The John Lyons trainer learned the hard way how weird he was. She was afraid of him for quite awhile. But she couldn't leave it. She kept working with him. She rides him all of the time now. I hear he's becoming quite the dressage horse. She's planning on keeping him, because she would never unleash him on someone else, but she likes him.

So who am I to decide that I'm the only one who can ride a tough horse?

I started a big, fat, Hancock-bred, blue roan mare. She bucked so hard, neither I, my young and bouncable assistant or the local buckaroo could stay on her. I turned her back to the owner with some dire warnings and she took her out to a guy who trains out of T-Cross ranch. She threw him often, tore down a solid timber round pen and broke his arm. But after 7 months he got her done. I hear she still bucks some, but the gal loves her and still has her.

Who am I to say if I can't ride them, they can't be rode?

So I'm slowly changing a lot of my previous lines of thought.

I still believe if I breed it I'm responsible for it. It's what I consider responsible that is changing.

I think all my horses need to have a solid base on them, not just tricks for the show pen. They need to be kind. They need to be willing. They need to be patient.

I have to keep my own situation healthy, physically and financially, so I can take care of my horses the way they need to be cared for.

I also need to get back to work. Later.


EveryoneThinksThey'reGoodDrivers said...

This one really hits home with me. I own one personal horse. He is a tough horse. I like the way you described "unleash" - because that is how I feel if I were to sell him.

People have offered for him, because he usually is a good boy and he is a decently built horse. But they always want to game him or trail ride with him or chase cows with him - these are all things I do, but they are hard to do on this horse. It looks a whole lot easier than it is.

Anywho, I've had him for 9 years. I take good care of him, I can only afford one and so he is all I have.

Many many times I have wanted a "better" horse, a more "competivite" horse. Because I can buy young and train my own, the financial expense is easier for me. But once again, I can only afford one.

I don't give him up, because I'm worried of the unleashing. He was purchased by my boss out of the loose pen, he has already been there before. He is not dangerous or a nutjob, he's just sensitive and dramatic.

Enough so that my boss said I could have him if I "like him so much."

But, who am I to say someone else can't ride him? I have decided that others can, but I don't want them to get sick of him or realize gaming is not a good job for him or realize that he will always be a little barn sour or realize that he doesn't watch a cow well at all.

He will not get colic surgery should that arise, he has a colic surgery scar - how a horse goes from colic surgery to the loose pen is anyone's guess but that's a whole other topic initself.

Speaking of training other horses and the tough ones that come along. I have a lot of respect for a person that will recognize a horse that is too tough. Just last week a colt starter sent a horse back after 3 days, she said, "too tough for me." Fair enough, that means too tough for me too. So we are on the hunt.

I always tell people that if I can't train one, that doesn't mean that no one can. However, I've also noticed that many of the really good trainers will no longer take the really tough horses...they've been there, done that and earned their stripes.

It's a conundrum. But fair enough.

Great post! I actually just posted on a euthanasia issue on my own blog today, sad story though. For this horse, I wish there was another option, because seeing him - he's not "ready."

mugwump said...

Everyone- I should have one horse. Somehow I've ended up with five. One will sell eventually. One will go with my daughter, eventually. The other 3? I don't know.
I had one. Then I ended up not willing to sell my daughter's first show horse (that's when I realized I'm not a horse trader). Last but not least, my little colt. He was supposed to go to the people I worked for, but they had a run on stud colts and didn't want him. I kept him rather than having him traded out.
Now I like him. So....

SquirrelGurl said...

I just made the decision to have my chinchilla euthanized on Friday, I know it is nothing like having a horse euthanized but I struggled with a number of the same topics you mentioned.

He was 9, middle aged for a chin, he lost half his body weight in less than a month. I took hm to the vet, was told he had dental disease and was referred to a specialist. The roots of his teeth had erupted through the bottom of his jaw, he had hooks on his teeth (just like horses get) and would probably need tooth extractions. Follow up dental care would be required every 6-8 weeks and he might even have to be on a liquid diet.

I made the decision to have him euthanized despite the vet's advice to "give him a chance". I struggled with my decision, he was still happy, his body condition wasn't great but it wasn't poor.

After more discussion and research I made my decision based on a number of factors- the repair wasn't a "fix" it would only prolong his life, the vets could break his weakened jaw while trying to fix it, chins are easily stressed and repeated vet visits would be very stressful for him and separation from his cagemate would cause stress for both chins not to mention the financial factor involved with repeated dental work that requires anesthesia.

I decided it wasn't right to put him through all that and that euthanasia was the right thing to do. I struggled with the decision as I didn't know if I was giving up on him or if I was a bad owner for not attempting treatment. But I just couldn't justify the stress involved in the process not only on Milo (the one PTS) but also his cagemate Marley.

In the end I chose quality of life instead of quantity and I think that was the right thing to do. If that makes me a bad pet owner in some people's eyes then so be it.

mugwump said...

There are also financial realities.My step-daughter paid $1,200 for her 12-year-old dog to have a tumor removed from his eye-lid. He died 2 months later of the cancer that caused the tumor in the first place.
I was blown away.

SquirrelGurl said...

I have decided that for all my animals, my horse included, that I will take a hard look at financial costs before deciding on emergency vet care.

I won't, can't, put myself deep I debt to save them. I too am climbing out of a moutain of credit card and student loan debt. If vet care is incredibly expensive and the animal won't be able to lead the same life as they had before then I will make the decision to have them euthanized.

My friend disagrees with me, she said she will spend every last dime she has to save her pets and that no cost is too much. They deserve to live and she will continue care until all options have been exhausted. She cannot believe I don't believe in doing this.

I question that thinking when quality of life issues come into play b/c are you really treating the animal for the animal's sake or for your own b/c you are scared of losing them?

gtyyup said...

Lots of fodder for thought...

When we leave for trips, our neighbors take care of our horses and dogs too sometimes. I decided that if I didn't put a dollar figure down on paper and something happened, they wouldn't know what our decision would be in emergency cases...such as colic. It sounds cold, but it really made me think of each horse (6 of them) and burro (2 of them) and what we could financially afford and emotionally handle with their loss.

With horses that have behavioral issues like you've mentioned, so many times someone else gets along fine with them...but it's almost like playing Russian Roulette...a tough and scary game to play.

Shanster said...

Interesting topic and I think a really personal one... almost like religion or politics!

Some people will do anything to save their animals and others the bare minimum.

I don't know where I fit - I suppose it depends on the circumstances and the animal.

I'd probably pay for colic surgery on either of my 2 riding horses because they are young, sound and I think there is a lot more life left in them. If my 30 yr old gelding colic'd and needed surgery? No way. He would be euthanized. He's had a good, good life and I wouldn't put his old body thru the trauma.

That said, I had a 2 yr old colt who injured himself so badly that he'd never be sound again.

I opted for euthanasia, even tho' he was young because I would have paid out the nose to fix him, his chances for recovery would be iffy and the road would have been long and hard for both of us only to have him unsound the rest of his life.

My dog collapsed and we did take him to CSU vet hospital... it was a decision made during emotional distress in the middle of the night. I'm not sure I'd make that decision again. We paid a lot of $, the vets never did know what was wrong and he died 3 weeks later.

I think if I had been thinking rationally - a 10yr old dog collapses that suddenly and is that much distress... something is really, really wrong. If he were a 1yr old dog, I would think a little differently and I think I would put some $ into him.

If it were something that would seriously affect the quality of life, I would not keep them going.

It's hard to know and it sucks to not have a big ol' bankroll to do different tests, surgeries or procedures.... but at the same time, is it right to keep them going just cuz we can? After all they can't reason and they don't know why there is pain.

It is the absolute hardest thing about owning animals, in my opinion... making these decisions and having to say good-bye.

HorseNoob said...

I work in a vet school (not a vet myself, unless you count treating cells in a dish, lol). This is something we come across: The treatment of the "herd" vs. the treatement of the individual. In agriculture you have acceptable levels of disaese. This relates in humans to how everyone should get a flu shot, even if you don't care if you get flu, you're protecting the "herd" by lowering the incidence.

I think in horses it just depends on how you see your horse. Is it a member of the family, a friend, a pet? Or is it a sponsored athlete, a tool, a resource?

If you have a large number of horses and are running a ranch, a breeding farm, or some sort of production, you cannot afford to treat the individual. To take extreme measures to save one life takes away from the resources to care for the rest. It becomes a burden.

That's not an issue when you have a limited number of horses, and their purpose has performance/use a second to companionship. Your favorite old mare is never a burden, no matter how ornery she gets or how tedious her feeding.

I believe with animals you have to face the fact that they cannot react the way humans do to treatment. We can bear the pain of recovery in good faith that it's the preferable option to death.

With animals some can endure recovery by being comforted by humans, such as a dog going blind, a bird losing a wing, etc. We can make them feel safe and comforted so that they can enjoy life.

Some pets- rodents, ferals, lower vertebrates, cannot. Everything you're doing to make them better is horrible (to them) and if the situation's not ever going to improve significantly they're just suffering. They don't know why, and they don't prefer it.

It's not a matter of "loving your horses enough."

I saw an ad on CL today for a 2 year old arab. He was treated for EPM and can never be ridden. They're offering him free as a pasture companion. Why did they treat him? They must have spent lots of money, and now they don't even want him? He had no companion value to them, or they'd keep him. They've made this burden on the horse community.

I think when you elect to euth a horse instead of selling, you ARE thinking of treatment, just of All horses as a herd, instead of yours as an individual. Euthing yours may save another from ending up in a can, helps the value of the others, and means more money and human resources go to others.

Also unless you're absolutely willing to keep track of this horse, and remember to do so, you can't guarantee their safety, and so maybe the first home will take this arab and love him and feed him, but then maybe they'll hit hard times, and sell him, and his value will not be well-primed to stay above that magical 400 dollars or so mark.

Stelladorro said...

This came at a good time for me, as this debate has been going on in my house for months.

I have two horses, the young girl is coming to college with me this fall, the old girl is staying home with my parents taking care of her. My parents are not horse people, they know a decent amount from following me around for 10 years while I've showed, owned and leased my share of horses. The old mare, Jazz, is a doll to ride, but can no longer wear a saddle, making her useless to a lesson program. This mare is perfectly healthy, holds her weight to the point that she's obese, a far cry from many old horses.

My fear is that I'll leave for college and be 12 hours away when something goes wrong. I noticed the other day after I rode her that she rolled and it took her a good 5 minutes of rocking herself into position to heave herself back up. What if she lays down and gets stuck when I'm gone? What if she colics? I have a trusted vet and farrier that we've had for years, a call list of horse knowledgeable friends for them in case of questions and help needed.

But I can't help but worry if it's the right decision to leave this girl home or to just put her down. I can't afford to take her with me, bringing one horse is 600 bucks a month with will already be taking up every cent I earn at school. I haven't been able to find any good pasture places under 300 a month, apparently the area around Columbus, Ohio is horse expensive, which is a far cry from Missouri where I can pasture for a third of that. I worry about what will happen if something does go wrong, how can I make the decision to put my horse down over the phone?

I've still got 6 weeks to chew this over, and I'll be home at thanksgiving to reevaluate, but the 'what if' question is haunting me.

Char said...

WOW. What a topic, and the timing is downright disturbing.

Two weeks ago I had the vet out to see my 20 year old, faithful gelding. He was dead lame in both front feet, and I was convinced he was foundering.

Turns out that the mild navicular that showed up on x-rays last year has gotten worse. I'm completely retiring him now, and I keep wondering to myself when the time will be "right".

He is in good weight, has a happy look on his face, comes to greet me when I come see him, and so on. But he is ALWAYS walking on egg-shells. Even with bute.

I keep telling myself, that as long as he's reasonably "pasture sound", he'll have a home in our pasture. That he'll let me know when it's time.

But that's the thing. He's always been such a brave boy. He'd walk through fire if I asked him to, with his ears perked and that naughty look on his face. He has done, and still does things that I ask him to do, EVEN if it hurts. He never gets sour. He never gets antsy. Just goes, "Ok mom, if this is what you want to do, then this is what we're doing."

Part of me doesn't want to wait until he's in so much pain, that he can barely walk. But the other part sure as hell wants to keep him around for as long as I can.

Oiy. Anyways, sorry so long. I've got a lot more thinking to do....

in2paints said...

Because of the way things are with the economy, I have been giving this a lot of thought lately. I have two horses, one old, retired gelding I've had for 19 years, and a 9 year old show mare I've had since she was a weanling.

When it comes to my mare, I will pay any price to save her life. She is extremely important to me and is priceless. She also has a good quality of life and lots more life to live.

My old gelding is another story. He has been retired since he was 6 and has dealt with arthritis all his life. He's been a pasture puff for so long that I feel if a life threatening condition suddenly appeared, I would be comfortable euthanizing him. I would be extremely upset, sad, and would miss him terribly, but I would feel comfortable putting him to rest.

Financially, things are good for me, but it something happened and I was facing financial hardship, I would first euthanize my gelding. It sounds cold, I know, but he's had a great life. I would do everything in my power to keep my mare... sending her to my parents house, trying to lease her out, anything to keep her in my care.

I'm just terrified to let either of these horses out of my care. Once they're no longer mine, I have no control over what happens to them, where they end up, or who they're passed on to. The old gelding especially, because I don't want him to end up on a slaughter truck.

So for me, it isn't so much about whether or not someone else could take good care of them, it's more that I'm afraid of who WON'T take care of them.

mugwump said...

The hard part of waiting to see pain, or letting our horse tell us they are "ready" is that, as herd animals, horses hide their pain. They can be quite stoic about terrible pain. Instinct tells them the wolves pick off the sick and lame ones after all.
I used to think as long as a horse is eating it's a happy horse. Then I had a vet tell me eating is the strongest instinctive function a horse has. So they will lay on the ground and eat grass up until the moment they die. So now I don't know what to think.

EveryoneThinksThey'reGoodDrivers said...

Lots of good thoughts here. Glad to hear I'm not the only one in debt.

I actually just made the decision to do a full dental on my housecat. She has a couple of bad teeth and quit eating.

This is not something I can really afford, I can make it work half on a cc card. But, I couldn't bring myself to put her down over a toothache.

But that's me and my relationship with this cat...she is very much like a dog.

However, I wouldn't do other drastic things to save her life...chemo would not happen.

I agree with the quality vs quanity comment. I don't want to wait until the animal is in terrible pain - I'd rather see them go before they get that far.

That's the thing about owning animals, they eventually break our hearts.

AKPonyGirl said...

Such thought provoking comments on a great subject.

I had a 35+ year old gelding put down this year. He had severe Cushings, was unridable, and had to be kept by himself. Although he was in good weight and seemed to be content, it was a mostly financial decision to have him put down. This was a rescue horse and I had no emotional ties to this horse.

"But that's the thing. He's always been such a brave boy. He'd walk through fire if I asked him to, with his ears perked and that naughty look on his face. He has done, and still does things that I ask him to do, EVEN if it hurts. He never gets sour. He never gets antsy. Just goes, "Ok mom, if this is what you want to do, then this is what we're doing."

Part of me doesn't want to wait until he's in so much pain, that he can barely walk. But the other part sure as hell wants to keep him around for as long as I can."

I felt the same way about my 14 year old Labrador. He was deaf and almost crippled with arthritis. He had been slowing down for several years but I just didn't want to see it. He was so happy to see me and did his best to keep up with me like he always had. He was my companion on three trips across the Alcan. I was forced to make the decision to put him down when I ran over him. He just didn't get out of the way fast enough.

"In the end I chose quality of life instead of quantity and I think that was the right thing to do. If that makes me a bad pet owner in some people's eyes then so be it."


t_orchosky said...

Hmmm. My thoughts are mixed on this one. I put down my American Eskimo dog a couple of weeks ago. He was only 1.5 year old. We bought him as a puppy and in Jan. as a one year old he was diagnosed with diabetes. Some people said it wasn't a death sentence, it could be managed. Others including my family thought I was crazy for buying insulin and being home as scheduled to give shots 2x per day. I gave him 7 months and finally decided to put him down, he was unhappy, we couldn't get his insulin amounts regulated, he didn't want to play all he did was follow me around and whine, so I decided to put him down.
I feel like I did the best I could for him and had to consider quality of life.

lopinon4 said...

I find comfort in having insurance on my animals. If I'm able to give them that great home, it's my job to do that until the end. I don't want to put my boy down because I can't afford the surgery. I want to put my boy down because I know it's time. Not one second before. He is 10 and navicular, and if I can keep him happy and pain free, I want all the tools to do that with.

With that said, a good friend of mine had to make the decision to put down her retired old mare. She was blind in one eye, arthritic everywhere, and had more bad days than good. It's been a year, and she still questions whether she did the right thing. She knows the answer is "yes", but she still misses that old mare rattling around her property. Damn, so do I, for that matter.
Ironically, she has a boarder with an old gelding that should've been put down years ago. Every time I look at him, I get pissed off.

This is, no doubt, the toughest part of sharing our lives with these animals...

Albigears said...

Char- Exactly. I run a therapy program for teenage boys and all of our horses have been donated. Usually after a full life- one was an eventer, one was an A circuit jumper, one spent 15 years at the Stockyards... so they're older, some are arthritic, and one has trouble swallowing. One stands in the pasture with his left front extended at all times. They're all in excellent weight with glossy coats (thanks Equine Senior).

They ALL are complete saints with the boys. They let themselves be caught and ridden by complete beginners. The more advanced boys learn to post the trot and learn the cues for canter. They happily take kids out in the woods and canter through hay fields. They haul the boys around on Poker rides and even go to little backyard schooling shows.

And then, when they're put away, the one stands with his left front extended. You can hear one old gelding's breath going in and out. One's age in unknown, but he's going grey around his eyes and his forehead and can't keep his weight up without supplements.

How do you know when it's time? These stoic creatures who have already given their lives to us? When do I put down beautiful glossy-coated Bailey who just won 2nd place in a halter class but who's joints are so full of arthritis he crackles and pops with every step? And who is so loved by a boy who doesn't love anything else in his life?

mugwump said...

Another thought to throw in to the mix. When I was in my 20's I was at the humane society looking at kittens. I asked about a sickly little kitten who was pulling at me heart strings.
The HS worker said to me, "There are at least 25 healthy, happy kittens here. Maybe 7 of them will find homes. The rest will be euthed.You should adopt the one that has the best chance of becoming a pet you'll keep for life."
I adopted a rowdy little Tabby, (Butch)and never forgot what she said. It applies on so many levels.

EveryoneThinksThey'reGoodDrivers said...

"You should adopt the one that has the best chance of becoming a pet you'll keep for life."

Absolutely, excellent point and good advice.

I think of people "rescuing" horses that have never even owned horses before.

Or people that by a Freisian - even though they've never ridden one.

Perhaps the bridge over gap (where we have such a terrible overpopulation problem) is where people need to take a look at themselves when they make their decisions on purchasing animals.

THEN go out and choose the animal.

chamoiswillow said...

Great topic. I like what horsenoob said, putting it in an excellent perspective, individual vs herd.

I have had my perspective change over the years due to my decision to treat my then 2yr old paint mare when she got ERU (moonblindness). When I tell you that everything medically possible was done to preserve her sight I mean everything. Mid five figures worth of everything, over about a 3 year period. Now she is fully blind, but amazingly well-adjusted, and I love her even more. She also gave me a stunning now yearling filly, and was a super mom. Not that I can afford to make a baby every year, and I am not naive enough to make them to sell them.

That said, if I knew then what I know now, I would have put her down. I did myself a lot of harm mentally and financially going through that with her.

I also have a 21-year old arthritic Morgan gelding. He is leased out as a kids walk-trot lesson horse, and is doing great. But when we signed the lease and she asked me my instructions for emergency vet care, specifically colic surgery, my answer was he'd have to be put down if that ever happened. He has worked hard all his life and deserves an good long semi-retirement, but I will not, and cannot, put him or myself through that again.

AareneX said...

I have *very* strong feelings on the issue--so strong that I wrote an article a few years ago describing the process of making the hard decision. It was published in Endurance News (fastest article acceptance I've ever had--about 5 minutes from submission to acceptance!) and then reprinted (with permission from EN) for a couple of rescue newsletters and some vet offices.

I'll dig it up and send it to you for a Mouthy Monday!

joanna said...

About 5 years ago I had to make one of the hardest decisions of my life. Our 29 year old App lost that light in his eyes. He didn't finish his meals and would stop eating his hay to look off into the distance. He was sound and healthy but I could tell he was done. My 25 year old TB mare had developed arthritis in her knees. She was happy, if unsound. She had a hard life, as a race horse and then a show horse. She looked fantastic. But her knees were starting to become deformed and she struggled to bend them enough to step up into her stall. She couldn't ride in a trailer without falling down. We were about to move 12 hours away to Ohio. No way would she make it. Our 20 plus QH mare was lame from arthritis in her knees for 2 years. I couldn't get her comfortable, she was always off. She also looked great. I could have found homes for the 2 mares, but what guarantee would I have they would get the same care they had had for most of their lives? That they wouldn't end up on a trailer to Canada? The TB was not sound enough for even light riding, the QH could possibly have been, but was for an experienced rider only. I decided I loved them too much to let them suffer in anyway. They were put down, all on the same day. I don't think I have ever cried as much as I did on that day. I hope to never cry like that again.

KD said...

Well, Leland sure didn't turn out butt ugly - that's a nice lookin' pony. I'll be interested in keeping up with your training.

I agree with making the "right" decision for your horse when they are dangerous or lose their quality of life. I hope that I will know when it's time for my girls. I honestly don't know which choice I'd make on something like colic surgery - maybe I'll never have to make that decision.

Joy said...

This is such a sobering and important post, imo.

I really take my responsibility for my animals very seriously. Even down to the stupid goldfish in the pond.

I did whatever I had to do to keep my old mare and my young gelding when my financial situation dramatically changed. Selling my mare wasn't an option. She was lame and needed to be in pasture, which is in very short demand where I live.

I knew that it was time when the light went out her eyes and she started having trouble keeping weight on. With her I chose the day and she got fussed over and lots of snacks and love. She went surrounded by me, my husband and my two best friends. Letting go of her was very difficult; I got her from a best friend who died shortly after in a car accident. The mare was all I had left of my friend. I can honestly say I did right by that mare.

With my dog, I waited too long. She was tough and stoic and most likely had cancer, but I didn't have $3,500 to spend finding out. I kept the weight on her for six months and one night her kidneys failed. I failed that dog. I should've picked a day like I did for my mare.

And for my gelding, I will never sell him. He's mechanically lame, and probably will be for the rest of his life. I will do whatever I have to do to keep or put him down otherwise. He's done too much for me to risk sending him into an unknown situation. There are a couple of options, like putting him in the pasture where he lived last summer. And I would do that so he could live out his life there. But I would never sell him. Maybe I get too emotionally attached. I don't know.

Glenatron said...

Seeing a horse with severe laminitis at our barn being preserved way past the point where he was clearly not going to get better was pretty sobering. His owner just couldn't accept that she might be losing her horse and it was as though her ears were filtering out every word she didn't want to hear from vets, farriers and everyone else. He spent the last six months of his life on box rest, horribly uncomfortable and it was just so expensive and needless.

The difference between quantity of life and quality of life has rarely been made more clear.

Meanwhile we have our retired horse with his arthritic front legs living very happily out in the field with a bunch of mares absolutely convinced he is king of all the stallions in the world, rather than a slightly creaky gelding, and he's happy but his stride is getting shorter and he doesn't run for as long as the rest of the herd these days and although he's fine now we find our minds turning to winter and wondering how he will manage if it's colder or wetter than usual ( he has never lived in ) and whether it is better to say goodbye at the end of a golden summer than to put him through a miserable and painful winter. Or whether maybe he has another summer or several more summers in him if we give him the chance.

I think for most of us that is one of the toughtest calls we will ever have to make for our horses.

Char said...

See, this is my hang up. I KNOW that I don't want my buddy to suffer. But I KNOW that he won't let me see him suffering until it's unbearable for him. And I KNOW that right now, he's right in the middle stage, between "sound enough to eat grass", and "can't hardly walk".

One of my biggest hang-ups is his age. He just turned 20 this spring. To me, that's AGED.... NOT OLD! I hear stories of others with thier 30+ year old toothless wonders that are still fat and happy, eventhough swaybacked and a little stiff.

I've known ever since I bought him as a nine-year old, that he would have a very good chance of having soundness problems as he got older. He was a jumper. He inherited his father's narrow, long, upright mule feet. That spells eventual navicular problems all over it. I know this. I'm just not ready for it to happen yet.

I want to be one of those crazies that has to cook mush meals for her old buddy that can't chew anymore.

Wazzoo said...

WOWSERS!!! I have a bilateral Crypt colt. He's 2yrs 3 months now. We are getting him gelded this winter. I live in the very NW part of GA and my vet quoted me $125 to, I think it was $400 if the tests were high up...if he doesn't have to reach too far up for the testes, then he's just going to charge me $125, the regular gelding rate.

autumnblaze said...

I blogged about this topic but my dog was the subject, just the other day.

Just taking my first horse on, not even a month ago this was one of the first things that popped into my mind. I'll carry insurance on him as long as they'll cover him.

Sx - It will depend greatly on what is going on inside him if I will opt for surgery. I know the likelihood of survial for a variety of conditions, the progression - I watched too many horses be kept alive for too long by owners at home and especially at the vet school. I've met a lot of horses that told me enough was enough, but their owners wouldn't hear it.

Horsenoob & Shanster you made some fantastic points.

I will say I think that just because we *can* keep them alive, give them 'a little more time' ... I don't always think that's right. Not even talking finances, I'm just talking ethically for the animal and for all animals. They don't understand. You can't explain it's going to hurt worse for a bit, but then you *might* feel better... Some tolerate the needles, the procedures, the pain because they are just that way - they are the most loyal and trusting. I think they're the most deserving of a dignified end.

If tomorrow my boy coliced... it would really depend - impaction? torsion? enterolith? The outcome is drastically different for each and every reason a horse colics. Each horse handles stress differently. I can't say that just because he coliced he would/wouldn't have Sx.

If it were a chronic pain... a lot of factors would have to be considered. I surely wouldn't wait until the day he couldn't stand/walk any longer. It may be sooner than later...

My boy is more stoic than I realized until recently. He just blew an abcess out his coronary band a few weeks ago... no one else noticed a thing until there it was. To me he seemed mildly grumpier a couple days before; I thought it was being at the new barn/new herd. He was subtly telling me something was wrong, not quite himself. I'm filing that away carefully for a day something more drastic goes wrong. Hopefully that day doesn't come. If it does my heart may break but I'll do what is truly best for him.

I do believe quality in life is surely more important than quantity. When to draw the line in the sand is different for every owner, animal and situation. I think it's most important to remember they don't fear/anticipate death the way some people do. I think it can be one of the last and greatest kindnesses you can give your horse or pet animal because afterall no matter what death is a part of every life.

autumnblaze said...

Char said...
'I'm just not ready for it to happen yet.'

It rarely happens when we're ready. I don't think we're ever ready to lose them. I always want it to be when I truly believe they're ready, regardless of my plans.

I helped care for a very nice Lip mare, foundered on all four. Sloughed her entire hooves in the front. She was in the hospital in a sand stall for the better part of a year, at least. The owners wanted her to carry one more foal. She was the most stoic, kind ... being ... I have ever met. I still wonder what happened to her. I thought it was unfair to ask her to carry foal weight on those newly grown feet that had been through so much. Their bill was astonishing but they had the money. They visited her daily and really did love her. She walked out... I won't say sound, but she walked out.

That case still bothers me because I still don't know if it was right, or not. I don't think it was fair to her... if a horse ever deserved some peace and relief from pain it was her. Good lord she took it like a champ. However, she did walk out and get on that trailer...

Juli said...

Oh Yeah. Been there twice this year. In the last three months.

My first horse, Alpine, was 15 in April of this year. Three years ago, he fell and bowed a tendon. While on recovery from that, he developed insulin resistance and foundered, then he started to go blind as a result of a congenital eye disease. I had a "healthy" 15 year old horse that was blind, couldn't be turned out in the pasture with his friends, and had to live in a dry lot 24/7. I made the decision and had him put down. He spent the week before in the pasture with his buddies (he wasn't fully blind yet), eating whatever the heck it was he wanted, and in large quantities. He went down peacefully and happily.

3 weeks later we found a tumor in my 13 year old dogs mouth. We had it removed, and was told it was a melanoma, but not a very high grade one. One week after that, Molly hurt her neck to the point where she wasn't able to get up. We took her to the emergency clinic. X-rays showed she had dislocated a cervical vertabrae, and incidentaly, her lungs were full of cancer. We had her put to sleep immediatly. We could have spent a month healing the neck, but from the amount of cancer in her lungs she didn't have that month, and my Molly was not spending the rest of her life in pain.

My current horse is almost 4. I've had him since he was 4 months old. He is not a candidate for colic surgery. I can't afford it, and I'm not going to put myself in more debt. I love Merlin, he's a pleasure to ride and have around. But there is a limit of about $1500 on vet care, because that is what is in my savings account.

Laura Crum said...

Great post, mugwump. It is so true that these decisions are hard to make and there is no simple rule of thumb. As for Henry, since you brought him up, yes, it was worth it to me to do colic surgery on him. My little boy and I just went for a magical ride in the redwoods and Henry's jaunty step and the glow in my kid's eyes made the whole expensive, time consuming process totally worthwhile. But I would not go through it for any of my pasture pets, no matter how much I love them. I think it is a choice where we all, as individuals, must follow our own hearts. There is no easy answer, no simple guide we can follow.

And for more about Henry, see my blog post today on equestrianink about "finding a bombproof horse."

Angie said...

Oh man, I just got of the phone with the vet asking for an estimate for euthanasia. I have been toying around with the idea of putting my old gelding down. It is so hard to make the "when" decision. I have asked friends the vet... They all have something different to say. I wrote out lists of why I should WAIT and one for DO IT NOW. I have more lines on the do it now list. Sadly some of the wait lines weigh more than the others.

CaitStClair | A Peachy Bride said...

Like so many others this one hits home for me. A few years ago my old mare went through a barbwire fence and got one of the barbs stuck in the middle of her hoof. The first vet didn't find it for two weeks. By that point it was a raging infection but I switched to CSU and fought on for two or three months to the tune of $2000 or so until I had to admit defeat. I never added the total cost up, that part didn't matter to me. I did all of this despite the fact that she was 23, pre-navicular and semi-retired. She was the horse that I saved my pennies for when I was 8 years old.
I still have her daughter and know that I would never do that for her. She would be put down.

I've also thought of this in case something happened so that I couldn't keep her. I don't think it would be right to "unleash" her on someone else. I trained her and so we get along well but she's a one woman horse. She only tolerates other people, sometimes just barely. I would probably euth her before selling her, but it's like you said, who am I to think I'm the only one that could handle her?
Same goes for my dog actually. I have a tendancy to train my animals to be loyal to me and not so much to everyone else. I wish I knew how to stop doing that. It's not fair to them.
Thanks so much for broaching this subject! It's one that touches a lot of us.

kel said...

HorseNoob did a great job of putting things into perspective.

I can't believe that I am going to admit this... but I currently have 10 head. I also have 2 others that don't belong to me but have been in my care for about 5 years. So I have the herd mentality. One of the horses that doesn't belong to me, belongs to my oldest and dearest friend. She is a AQHA mare,turned 15 this year, hasn't been rideable for the last 6 years. She has front feet that are teacup sized and she is navicular in one and club in the other. My friend spent big bucks when she bought her, having her trained, and now trying to keep her comfortable. She has had two nice foals.(her foot problems were pretty much man made - or I should say her feet were small and poorly managed?) She shouldn't be bred again because the excess weight is too much for her front end. Here is my dilemma... said owner is 8 hours away, she hasn't seen the horse in 2 or 3 years. She pays the bills willingly, and I tell her often that "the day" is coming. Of course she doesn't want to hear it. The mare is reasonably comfortable for now. (She is on permanent pasture that is like walking on 4" thick carpet so she moves around good.) I feel like if I send her home it is surely a death sentence (she would be in a 16 x 16 box stall), if I keep her it is adding to my burden and taking space & time that I could be giving to my own productive horses. If I push to euth her, is it my own selfishness? I have been going over and over this for awhile. Anyone have any suggestions?

mugwump said...

gtyyup had a good idea. Figuring the dollar amount of what you can do for each animal.Sentiment and reality are juggled often in my house.
horsenoob- I feel like my animals are individuals, but I also separate them from my family.There is a trend in some veterinary practices that assumes each animal is a family member. I have recieved more than one not-so-gentle push toward, to my mind excessive treatment.Have you seen it? Do you know what I mean?
Stelladorro- The other problem is, how much responsibility should your family take? How much of the burden of caring for an ailing horse should they take?
KD-thank you. I think he's kinda cute too.
joanna- I lost three horses in one year myself. I almost quit riding. I completely understand.
Wazzoo - It would have been cheaper to just haul to your vet!
LauraCrum- It's easy for me to understand saving Henry. He has an important job.

myhorsefaith said...

Last november i had to put down my beloved mare. She was my favorite horse, and at 8, riddled with arthritis. She was always a super spunky, bright eyed, can't-stand-still-for-anyone-or-thing ottb. Each year, her lameness issues would get worse, but still manageable, and she still had spunk.

Last year, in October, she started to lose her brightness- her bad days got more frequent, despite injections and supplements and medications. She stopped cleaning up her hay, even her favorite, alfalfa. She wouldnt touch her grain ration, either.

There was something wrong with her- in my gut I knew it, and I could see it. I had the vet out, who didnt think her lameness was cause for her to stop eating- because "she didnt look that bad." She thought ulcers, and so we treated for ulcers...except my mare wasnt responding to the treatment, and started refusing medication too. It was a battle to keep her comfortable- and our relationship really started to suffer. I started getting really upset that I was buying all this expensive medicine to help her, and she was trying to kill me in an effort to refuse to take it.

I had to think long and hard- what were we going to do? Were the rest of our days slated to be a medication battle? Was I going to watch her 8 yr old ottb self waste away to nothing while she refused to eat?

To top it off, my vet gave me a hard time about my even thinking about euthanasia. She told me that she could easily find someone to take her on as a pasture pet, and heck, she would even donate the medicine. I had to explain to my vet that it really wasn't the expense of the medicine (though significant), and she really wasn't anyone else's responsibility to care for- and frankly, i didn't think my horse would want someone to prolong her life the way it was.
I had that horse since she was fresh off the track as a 2 yr old, and i knew her inside and out...she's a drama queen that can't take pain. And she's spunky enough to hurt someone. No, finding another home was not the answer.

It took some convincing, but my vet eventually consented to euthanasia. And i tell you, it was like my mare knew i made the choice- for a horse who normally WIGS out at the sight and smell of a vet- she stood completely still for the entire procedure- I was shocked (and worried that she'd create drama on her last day on earth)...but she didn't. she held still for the needles, and was out of her body before it hit the ground.

It was peaceful- and i know i made the right choice for the horse as in individual, the community, and my other horses and pets too. I now bear the pain that my favorite mare was walking with- and that is ok by me.

Laura Crum said...

I should say that I sent Henry to surgery because he was sound, healthy, needed, used, loved, AND the vet thought he knew what was wrong (enteroliths) and the horse had a good chance. I would not have gone to colic surgery with a poor prognosis. And it was damn hard to go there under the circumstances. However, the bottom line was Henry's eye was always bright, he was never in real distress (either before or after the surgery), his condition was good, and he just looked like he could come through. Having done it, I know now that I would not do it again unless I really had a need/use for the horse. It seems very clear to me. I would not bankrupt my family to do it, either. I was lucky that I could afford it when it happened--there were times that I couldn't have, and those times may come again. There really are a lot of factors involved when you make this sort of a choice. I euthanized my beloved horse Flanigan, due to a similar colic, as the horse was not a candidate for surgey because of a preexisting condition. Every animal, every situation, is different. I am not at all saying that colic surgey is always the right option. And I agree with mugwump that more and more often I hear vets pushing what I consider to be really extreme measures to prolong life. This happened to me with one of my dogs. I had to be really clear with them that he was an old dog and he was in the process of dying and I would not prolong his struggle. They did as I said...but I should not have had to make that speech.

Shanster said...

Mugs - a friend of mine works at the CSU vth... she says definately the trend now in teaching the vet students is to treat animals like humans and to provide every possible option/treatment.

She said she sees people spend thousands and thousands and thousands on the latest technologies and tests and treatments only to end up with a dead animal at the finish.

When our dog was at CSU they certainly dazzled us with technical speak and options and tests... several of which we declined. You always have the option to decline a procedure.

I know it's a personal decision each of us makes. How far to go financially and what we will put our animals through physically. I don't judge what others decide because it IS such a personal thing and so many factors weigh into that decision with each animal we have in our lives.

The technology is certainly cool and it CAN be really useful ... but to a "normal" person making "normal" money that trend can be extremely costly and I think a bit misleading - even tho' I'm sure most times it comes from a good place.

I'd never risk losing my home over an animal. Yes, I love them dearly and I don't have children so I can think of them as my "kids".

At the same time I recognize they are animals and not people. Even tho' their company is more appreciated than SOME people! :)

joanna said...

All that new technology to keep our animals alive has started me asking my vet the most important, IMHO, question: Will he/she be able to enjoy doing the things he/she loves to do? We had a Aussie/shepherd mix that developed a pancreatic tumour. We did everything we could do, but he still struggled. Our vet wanted to put him on an even stricter diet to control his blood sugar. When I asked her if he would be able to run, play, and chase tennis balls, she said probably not, he could have another seizure. I told her to put him down. It would kill him to not be able to do those things.

Myhorsefaith- we had a similar experience with our old Chihuahua. She and our old vet would have a standoff every year for shots. She would growl at him, he would growl at her, she'd nip him and he'd give her her shots. They had a mutual disrespect for each other. It was pretty funny. When she had to be put to sleep from failing kidneys, she licked him as he gave her the shot. I completely lost it right then.

mugwump said...

Laura- I understand what you're getting at. Would I be quicker to try more options if I had more money? Probably. I think we all agree, the comfort of the animal comes first.
Shanster- I wondered if that was how the education of new vets was being handled.
I'm not calling veterinarians money grubbers either, I think they are simply supplying the demand. And the new advances are exciting.
I have to admit, my vets over the last 15 years are both over 60. One's a "retired" race track vet and the other is a Colorado ranch kind of guy.
Both are old-school and practical. I feel comfortable listening to their advice.

mugwump said...

joanna- I'm not a cryer. You got me with that one though.

Cowhorse Lover said...

Talk about a subject close to home. I am really struggling with the changes in veterinary medicine having come face to face with the new guard-so to speak. Practicality and good sense have went clean out the window and been replaced with veterinary practices that just plain guilt people in to doing something their gut and finances tell them not to.
I have been with the same veterinary clinic for close to 35 years. The old school vets in the practice tended to be much more pessimistic about potential outcomes but willing to get it a try if you wanted to invest in an animal. That was then-this is now.
My boss found her kitty with a broken leg. I am a dyed in the wool cat lover and I told her to make an appointment and have the leg amputated it was a bad break in a bad place. I watched those vets strong arm that poor woman into spending over $3500 specialized surgery on a cat that will probably be eaten by a coyote as all her other cats have been…”Oh dear, you must give her a chance at a normal life” “How could you be possibly think of amputating her leg…” Well, over the past 30 or so years I have had several cats that ended up three legged and they all had fine and full lives-that’s how.
Last week my old heeler Kessie got sick. Really sick. She was 17 years old and had three major illness episodes in the last six months. In the past she was bright eyed, and wanted to live. It was a good investment of my money to give her some more time with us. She bounced back quickly and I really didn’t need a pellet stove to heat my house anyway.
This time, there was no light in my old girls eyes. She was done- I knew she was done. Unfortunately I ended up with one of the fresh faced new guard at the vet clinic…Rather than look at the obvious which is a geriatric dog that has a system wide failure…Oh no-we should run every test in the world. Must test for parvo… Oh, You live on a dead end gravel road with a 900 foot driveway and have no visitors… alien invasion would be more likely… Must do full blood panel… done less than three months ago? Never once did the subject of elderly old dog come up. Gee, only after they found the cancer cells in the fecal and the huge mass in her lungs- only then was the possibility that it is time to make a decision about her future come up. I am a pretty tough cookie and I have never felt so strong armed in my life.
I am not cheap and I do not put down animals lightly. I have invested thousands and thousands in my animals and will no doubt do so in the future. I am however appalled at the new “save them at any cost mentality” that I have encountered recently.

Wazzoo said...

mugwump said...

Wazzoo - It would have been cheaper to just haul to your vet!

:-) sorry...lol...I don't get what would have been cheaper? Maybe you have me confused with someone else's comment? I am going to take my colt to the vet to gelded. My vet quoted me $125 to around $400 to geld him since he is also a bilateral cryptorchid.

mugwump said...

Wazzoo- I was quoted $1,200 to $2,000 to geld my colt. It would be cheaper to haul to Georgia and pay your vet $125.

EveryoneThinksThey'reGoodDrivers said...

Wholly hell Mugwump - that is a lot of money to geld a horse that I'm assuming "should" be a gelding anyway if you get my drift.

I decided a while back to never place judgement on other's decisions and to never say "I would have..." This came from learning that no two situations are the same and having the "I would have..." back at me.

I do draw a line, however, when it comes to animal suffering. Every now and then an extreme rescue case shows up on the news and the poor animal is turned into the poster child for animal welfare/rights and/or that organizations cause.

That annoys me to no end.

Case in point, a situation in Duluth MN where someone found a yearling colt frozen to the ground, still breathing.

After the rescue, the colt could not stand. The poor colt was then put in a sling and spent six weeks in the sling before it finally died on it's own.

I believe that animals live in the moment. I do not believe they envision the future (they do not see themselves growing old, they do not see themselves as show horses or kids horses or trail horses). So, in my opinion, when an animal cannot 'do its thing' without extreme intervention, it's time to go. Every time a pet gets chemotherapy, the pet does not think "well at least I have my friends and family around me to help me through this." All they think is "I'm sick, I'm sick, I don't feel good, I'm sick."

Another example is a broken leg on a horse. My question is: if we left this horse to it's own devices, would it heal and regain the use of it's leg to live (sound to ride is NOT the question). If that is the case, then let's cast, stall rest, etc. However, if the horse would eventually die from said broken leg (Barbaro comes to mind) then the answer is no, don't try to save the horse.

I think some intervention is good; colic, founder, insulin resistance, cushings, flesh wounds, soft tissue damage and the list goes on. (let's not forget plain maintenance for these animals we keep in "unnatural" settings.)

However when the animal suffers and suffers and suffers it is WE that have to let go. WE that have to use our brains to cope with our emotions.

I understand that this is not what people like to hear.

My tangent was not directed at anyone in particular, but the after effects of this topic soaking in all day.

AareneX said...

I'm reading comments with interest here, and have noticed (as others have mentioned) a tendancy for "new vets" to push treatment.

One of the qualities I look for in a vet is somebody who isn't afraid to say "it's time." I've got two of those now--one for large animals, one for small animals. When I come into the office with a tough case, they ask me if I want to proceed with treatment, and they hold my hand when I shake my head.

Worth gold.

drifter said...

I think the new vet procedures are more disconcerting than anything else. It's a tough decision to make to end a life, no vet should argue with an owner. I dislike vets who won't be straight with you if it's a cat, dog or horse. I want to know likelihood of a successful outcome with a meaningful life. That's it. Let me make my decision based on that and my own conscience. I do, however, believe that money is a motivating factor for many vets.

I consider myself lucky to have one of the old time, straight shooting vets to care for my critters.

Candy'sGirl said...

Mugs, I had the same response from a lot of vets, although I found one that only charged me $700 for my colt's crypt surgery. Incidentally they're regarded as one of the best practices around. Everyone else, including Purdue's vets, wanted 2 grand just to walk in the door.

HorsesAndTurbos said...

This made me think this am while brushing Cooper (the mini I ended up adopting). He was hit by a car, his hips are all f'kd up, and I realize that as he gets older and they get arthritis and he hurts more and more, I'll do what I can to relieve the pain, but no extreme measures...it's just not fair to him, as he'll never get better. Right now he walks stiffly in the am (even after being in a 10x12 stall for less than 8 hours), but is fine once he gets moving. I'll just keep an eye on him, start him on BL Pellets when he starts to get worse, and decide daily. Like you all said, once the light is gone, I'll let him go.

Wazzoo said...

mugwump said...
Wazzoo- I was quoted $1,200 to $2,000 to geld my colt. It would be cheaper to haul to Georgia and pay your vet $125.

July 22, 2009 5:14 PM

Thanks for clearing that up! I was totally having a airhead moment...LOL! Now I will just be crossing my fingers that he doesn't have to reach too far up to find the testes...but even if he does...I'm prepared. :-) Your blog rocks!!!

Glenatron said...

One thing I think may be pushing vets towards treatment is that a lot of people have their animals insured now, particularly hobby owners rather than those with larger herds. Certainly we do this with all our horses and it's reassuring to know that if something costly does come up the insurance will cover it, but at the same time I am sure it suggests to vets that they can try newer and more expensive treatments.

Juli said...

Interesting thought on the newer vets. My vet is fairly young, she's been practicing around here for about 5 years, but other than asking me if I was sure, she gave me no grief about my decision to euthanize Alpine.

For that matter, when it was scheduled, I gave them my credit card number and told them to just charge the fee, I didn't care about the cost. Three weeks later, i got the bill from Visa, and they had charged me $100.00. I was expecting much higher, her normal trip charge alone is usually $40.

Alpine was 15 and going blind when I made the decision. It was nice not having to argue.

And like some other posters experience, my spooky, half blind horse that panicked being taken out of his paddock went quietly down the driveway, across the road, and into the pasture with the big scary machine without blinking. He knew, and he was fine with it.

Allyson said...

One thing i forgot to add: there was a long discussion on COTH regarding large/small animal vets & costs.

One of the points made was that vets MUST give you the suite of their treatment options to help protect themselves against law suits.

I'll never begrudge a vet giving me my options. What I do begrudge is the guilt-trip when i don't choose the 3,000 or 5,000 K option and am told I should give my horse to someone who would be willing to pay it & see it through. That's where i hop off the train, because really, the end decision is not always made as a result of the bottom line.

I have 3 other horses, and 1 of which is going down a lame-ness path. And we're spending money to figure it out. Not a whole lot, probably less than 2 k cumulative, but she can motor about and her spark is still vibrant. No reason to consider euthanasia right now, she's still got plenty left in her, and we have plenty to still discover. it really isn't always about money.

mugwump said...

You know I have to defend the young veterinarians now. It's the mugwump in me.
Consumer demand creates the "treat them like family" approach.
Making us feel guilty? Not so much.

Anonymous said...

I haven't had to make the choice to put down an animal (yet), so take this for what its worth.

In my humble opinion, a human who can't walk is still a human, but a horse who can't walk is no longer a horse. As much as we like to anthropomorphize our pets, their bodies are the only life they have. There's no mind to keep them engaged in life after their bodies give out. When their bodies become more painful than pleasurable, it's time.

On a less theoretical note, my mother has said that if the family cat loses bowel control in her old age, she'll be put to sleep then. The cat is not one that would tolerate diapers - we can't even get her to wear a collar - and Mom is not willing to have a house that smells like cat leavings.

I guess some people would think it's cruel and Mom must not really love the cat... but I understand, and don't object. She's not a pocket cat, she is very much her own creature. It's better to let her go a few years earlier than strictly necessary, rather than make the last few years miserable for her or for my mother. Hopefully it won't come to that, though.

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