Archive for July 17th, 2009

A Song of Farewell

Friday, July 17th, 2009

If you have an EPM’r, and are still trying to treat or rehab, consider yourself in the better end of the EPM statistics.  About 40% of horses will not respond to conventional therapy.  They generally decline in coordination until they are recumbent.  At some point the owner must make the decision to euthanize.

© Chris Friel, Wild Horses 31    www.flickr.com/photos/cfriel/3470073569/

© Chris Friel, Wild Horses 31 www.flickr.com/photos/cfriel/3470073569/

Planning for the end isn’t just for humans.  All horse owners should have knowledge of the options, costs, and timing for disposing of their larger, if not loyal friends.  Sometimes the practical matters of holiday weekends, frozen ground, or emergency euthanizing can leave the owner scrambling to find dignified solutions.

Euthanasia requires two types of decisions, ‘when’ and ‘how’.  The answer to ‘when’ is a very personal decision, and can be forced by emergency, or observations over time.  For the EPM horse owner, human safety from a physically incapacitated horse is a critical issue.  Here are two resources to consider:

AAEP “Ethical and Professional Guidelines”,
Euthanasia Guidelines (2007)

Guidelines for Recommending Euthanasia – The following
criteria should be considered in evaluating the immediate
necessity for intentional euthanasia of the horse to avoid and
terminate incurable and excessive suffering:

1. Is the medical condition chronic and incurable?
2. Does the immediate medical condition have a hopeless
prognosis for life?”
3. Is the horse a hazard to itself or its handlers?
4. Will the horse require continuous medication for the relief
of pain for the remainder of its life?
5. Will the medical condition result in a lifetime of continued
individual confinement?

The Emergency Euthanasia of Horses, from UC Davis

Fugly Horse of the Day just posted a HSUS resource for Humane Horse Disposal that helps to answer the ‘how’.

While this is a good start, owners need to make a few phone calls to verify the information and to check on the costs.  Call your County Extension office (or the local tack store) for information, and then the service providers.  I’ll note that the new HSUS list is already out of date for my area.  Consider all of the options, even if they are not aesthetically pleasing to you.  Europe denies the use of barbiturates for euthanasia in part, because of the ground water pollution it creates when the horses are buried.

Think of the next time that you take a well deserved vacation, and are several time zones away.  You get a frantic text message from the house sitter saying the vet had to euthanize your horse.  Now what?  You will be very glad that you took the time to plan, and left instructions with the sitter.  Trust me on this one.