Quality of life and end of life should go hand-in-hand when it comes to caring for older horses, yet a balanced assessment and a final decision can be subjective and highly emotive, making a veterinarian’s job even more challenging.

The British Equine Veterinary Association’s (BEVA) 2017 Congress will devote an afternoon of discussion to this sensitive topic on Friday, Sept. 15, at Liverpool Arena Convention Centre.

Making the decision to end a horse’s life is probably the most difficult aspect of owning or caring for one, and the process is undoubtedly hard for the attending veterinarian, as well. Nicky Jarvis, BVetMed, Cert AVP (Equine Medicine), Cert AVP (Equine Surgery Soft Tissue), MRCVS, head veterinarian at Redwings Horse Sanctuary, will moderate the end-of-life session at Congress, which aims to explore the major aspects of euthanasia and the implications for owners, veterinarians, and insurance.

Georgina Crossman, MBA, PhD, who coordinated Advancing Equine Scientific Excellence’s collaborative project considering equine end of life and euthanasia, will commence with a look at owners’ attitudes to euthanasia. Lesley Barwise-Munro, BSc, BVM&S, CertEP, MRCVS, of Alnorthumbria Vets, a Fédération Equestre Internationale veterinary official, senior racecourse vet, and honorary vice president of the National Equine Welfare Council, will follow with the practicalities of euthanasia—how to perform it well and pitfalls to avoid.

Monica Aleman, MVZ Cert., PhD, Dipl. ACVIM (internal medicine and neurology), associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine, will share her knowledge on electrophysical studies of euthanasia. And Karen Cook, a teaching fellow at the University of Surrey School of Health Sciences and a registered adult nurse—who’s career has been dominated by palliative and end-of-life care—will then draw any relevant comparisons with end-of-life care in humans.

Andrew Harrison, BVSc, CertEP, CertVA, MRCVS, a partner at Three Counties Equine Hospital, will close the session with a pertinent look at BEVA Guidelines and insurance implications of euthanasia.

“As vets, we must balance the privilege and responsibility that comes from access to euthanasia when maintaining animal welfare,” said Mark Bowen, BVetMed, PhD, CertEM (IntMed), MRCVS, senior vice-president of BEVA. “Decisions are currently based upon personal views and experience as well as an awareness of our clients’ emotional needs and a considerable amount of anthropomorphism when deciding on ‘the right time’. In the absence of an evidence-based method for assessing quality of life, this session will review what we do know and how to make this final act as stress-free as possible for all involved.”

Organized by horse vets for horse vets BEVA Congress Europe’s largest equine veterinary conference. This year it will be held at Liverpool Arena Convention Centre, in England, September 13-16. The program will include a line-up of practitioner friendly “big cheese” speakers, extensive continuing professional development, quality science, and novel demonstrations. Learn more at beva.org.uk/home/education/congress.