Hard Decisions When Pain Meds Aren’t Helping an Older Horse

When a pain medication or strategy is no longer providing a senior horse with relief, the kindest option might be euthanasia.
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older horse lying down in field
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Acknowledging it’s time to say goodbye is one of the hardest decisions you’ll make as a horse owner. When pain is preventing your horse from having a good quality of life, however, euthanasia becomes a gift we can give them. Lori Bidwell, DVM, Dipl. ACVA, of East West Equine Sports Medicine, describes why keeping a declining senior horse on lots of pain meds might not be a good idea and lists signs your horse might no longer be enjoying life.

This is an excerpt from our Ask The Horse Live podcast, “Equine Pain and Discomfort.” Listen to the full recording here.

About the Expert:

Lori Bidwell

Lori Bidwell, DVMLori Bidwell, DVM, Dipl. ACVA, is a 2001 graduate of Michigan State University, a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Anesthesia and Analgesia, and a certified veterinary acupuncturist. She did her internship at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky, and completed her anesthesia residency at Michigan State University. She was the head of anesthesia at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital and Lexington Equine Surgery and Sports Medicine and has been on faculty at Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine and Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine. In 2015 she co-founded East West Equine Sports Medicine, a sports medicine practice that covers veterinary services for hunter/jumper circuits on the West and East Coasts. Bidwell also consults in anesthesia for equine practices, teaches part of a study abroad program in Thailand and South Africa, and speaks and teaches nationally and internationally. Bidwell competes with her horses in the amateur owner jumper divisions.

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Written by:

Alexandra Beckstett, a native of Houston, Texas, is a lifelong horse owner who has shown successfully on the national hunter/jumper circuit and dabbled in hunter breeding. After graduating from Duke University, she joined Blood-Horse Publications as assistant editor of its book division, Eclipse Press, before joining The Horse. She was the managing editor of The Horse for nearly 14 years and is now editorial director of EquiManagement and My New Horse, sister publications of The Horse.

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