Last Updated on February 28, 2022 by Allison Price
It is the most difficult decision you will ever make. We can help you get through this difficult time.
People often ask me how it is possible. Isn’t this the most difficult part of your job? They wonder. Sure, it’s hard. It’s also difficult. I feel that I am doing something great when I euthanize horses, especially when I realize that the horse is a beloved pet whose owner has struggled for many years to make that decision. It is not an easy decision.
This article will help you understand the steps involved in ending the life of your horse with veterinary-assisted chemicals euthanasia. It starts with a thorough look at all the possible scenarios that could occur that might force you to make that decision. I will help you determine the best time and outline the steps that you need to plan. The final step of the euthanasia process will be explained by me step-by-step. It’s not an easy process, but if you know the steps it will be easier for you to understand than watching it happen to your horse.
Making the Right Decision
These are the most common situations that could lead to a decision to euthanize a horse: sudden serious illness or injury, slow decline that causes quality to suffer, and temperament problems that make it dangerous.
Scenario #1: Sudden severe illness or injury.
Imagine this. Picture this: The owner of the horse’s boarding facility calls you in panic. Your horse is injured and has been kicked out of the pasture. Your vet arrives at your barn, and you race to get there. He tells that your horse’s large bone in the upper leg has been broken. It’s even worse: it has penetrated the skin making it an extremely serious and likely untreatable condition. You must decide if you want your horse to be put down.
This situation is a one-stop shop. It must be made quickly so that your horse doesn’t suffer. While euthanasia-as-the-only-choice can be the most stressful of all scenarios in the short term, in many ways it’s the easiest because you really have no other choice.
[READ: Vet Call 911]
Scenario #2: Slow, steady decline.
Your mare of 30 years has been part of your family for many years. She’s been losing a lot of weight recently and is stiff and sore when she walks around the pasture. Your mare is just old. The vet has performed a thorough exam and done some lab work. It’s easy to wonder if your mare will soon leave you.
This can make it difficult to think clearly about the horse’s health and quality of life. Let me tell you, it is probably not the right time. Most horse owners will experience an event that makes the decision easy. If the beloved old-timer is unable to get up from lying down to sleep, roll or roll, or if a sudden illness strikes, it can cause a change in their horse’s ability to move about the pasture. People often say to me “you’ll see,” and they do.
Scenario #3: Dangerous.
A horse has been rescued, but you find that he is extremely unpredictable. In fact, he can be downright frightening. He’ll bite you if you turn your back for even a second. He’ll kick and spin if you’re not paying attention. Your vet almost died when he came to perform a simple exam. You can’t even imagine how you will ever be able to provide basic care.
It is the hardest decision you will ever make. Others will judge you and your barn may become embroiled in political debates. If you really believe that your horse is dangerous and you have taken the necessary steps to resolve your issues, then euthanasia might be right.
It’s crucial to ensure that there are no other training options available to you to help with your behavioral problems before you make this decision. Talk to a trainer who is experienced in working with problem horses. You might be able to put your horse in training for a time with them for an accurate evaluation. Your veterinarian may also be able to help you assess your situation and offer suggestions for alternatives to euthanasia such as donation to a school of veterinary medicine or research program.
If you reach the point that euthanasia is your only option, seek the guidance of your trainer or veterinarian and don’t listen to others.
There are steps to take once you have made the decision that you want to euthanize. What should you do? What should you do? What do you do about the horse’s bones? These questions can all be answered by one call to your veterinarian.
Many owners wonder if they should be present during the euthanasia process. Some owners prefer to let their veterinarian do the euthanasia, and have them handle the remains. Others prefer to be far away. Some horses want their veterinarian to take care of the final moments of their horse’s lives. It is a personal decision.
An owner must make this decision. I warn them that horse euthanasia is not always as easy as it is for a dog or cat. This is simply due to the horse’s large size. It is possible for your horse to fall, but he will likely still be standing when the medication has been administered.
After the euthanasia is complete, you will need plans for how to handle his or her remains. There are three basic options: cremation, burial, and rendering.
This is the most common and practical option. Simply call a rendering company to arrange for a truck to transport your horse’s body to the rendering plant. There, it will be processed into animal feed additives and soap. Lubricants, glue, and other lubricants can also be made from the horse’s remains. It is best to arrange for the rendering truck to arrive within an hour to two hours of your appointment with your veterinarian. The body can then be removed before it begins to decompose.
Rendering costs can range from $100 to $300 depending on where you are located, how far away the rendering plant is, and whether your request is an emergency. There is no way to plan ahead.
You may wish to have your horse buried on your land if you own it. You will need to research the local laws in order to do this. Some counties ban burial. If they allow it they may have specific requirements regarding the location, depth and size of the holes, as well as how the body should handled.
It’s possible to bury your horse on your own property, but it is best to do your research ahead of time to make sure you know if it is possible. There are some horse cemeteries that provide burial services if you cannot bury your horse on the property. Ask your veterinarian if this service is available in your region.
The cost of burial depends on the availability of the equipment required to dig the hole. A hired backhoe and operator, if you don’t own one, can often do the job for $300 to $600.
Equine cremation is becoming more popular. You can easily arrange for your horse’s remains to be picked up and cremated by simply calling. If you choose to have the remains returned to you, or disposed of by crematory if general or “communal” Cremation is requested, they will be returned to your home.
Cremation costs are usually determined by the pound with a minimum of $500. Cremation of an adult horse is usually priced between $1,000 and $1500.
The Euthanasia Event
Once you have made your decision and put together your plans, it is time to arrange for the actual execution. Your vet will often send a technician to assist you if you are not available. Your vet will provide detailed instructions on how to care for your horse while you administer the medication. To ensure your safety, it is important to pay attention. Remember that even a 1,000-pound animal can fall to the ground and it can be dangerous and unpredictable.
Your vet might decide to give a sedative to your horse prior to euthanasia. This will calm your horse and make it easier to relax during stressful times. The vet will then give the euthanasia medication, which is most often Sodium Pentobarbital. The vet will inject a large amount of the solution, usually between 80cc to 120cc, as quickly as possible into the vein.
After the injection is complete, your horse’s eyes will glaze over. This happens usually in 10 to 20 seconds. Owners need to be aware that your horse is not aware of what is happening from the moment you recognize it. It’s all up to you from that point on.
After standing for a while, your horse will begin to sway and fall to the ground. He will fall gently in an ideal situation. However, it is possible for him to hit the ground hard. This can be disturbing if you are already upset. Remember that your horse may not know what is happening. It’s only up to you.
Because horses are large, it can take some time for their heartbeats to stop. To determine if he is truly gone, your vet may listen to his heart. Even if your horse’s heart stops beating, you should be aware of his reflex movements. These movements can be difficult to observe if you aren’t prepared. You might hear him suddenly taking a deep, long, slow breath or moving a leg. You want to be there for him at the end.
It is never easy to decide to end the life of a horse you love. And it can be difficult for your veterinarian to give that last injection. Remember that euthanasia, which is a gentle death?will be the best thing you can do to your horse when it comes time.
It’s easy for people to forget the little things that will help you create lasting memories of your horse friend when they are faced with difficult decisions about euthanasia. These are some suggestions.
We always trim a few tail hairs from each horse we kill. The locks are cleaned and conditioned, then we braid them with colored ribbons for our client to keep as a keepsake. Your horse’s hair can be braided into bracelets or pottery pieces.
Shoes: Ask your veterinarian to remove your horse’s shoes from the time he is euthanized.
Name plates from the halter/bridle If you want to keep a nameplate on your horse’s halter at the time of his death, make sure it is removed before the rendering truck arrives. Nameplates made from halters and bridles can be a wonderful way to keep your horse’s name in mind.
I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!