Being Prepared for Equine Euthanasia

Plan ahead when it comes to making end-of-life decisions for your horse.

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Being Prepared for Equine Euthanasia
If you're caring for a horse in declining health, create a euthanasia plan. | Photo: iStock

We enjoy a unique relationship with a remarkable large animal. It’s a partnership and a companionship based on heartfelt emotion. However, most of us choose not to dwell on how the relationship with our beloved horses might come to an end.

Owners, trainers, and caregivers have a wide variety of experiences and perspectives when it comes to end of life choices. Unlike in human medicine, if our patients suffer from a terminal illness, catastrophic injury, or an irreversible poor quality of life, we have the duty to act with mercy and provide them with a pain-free death. Euthanasia is a procedure that veterinarians perform with great care. It involves humility, reverence for life, and the utmost compassion for all involved. Heavy emotion typically saturates these events. Those of us who do it well take pride in the ability to deliver this valuable service. 

If you own or care for a horse, I encourage you to give some thought to euthanasia during a time when there is no sense of urgency. This will better prepare you for an emergency ­circumstance—when indecisiveness can prolong ­suffering—and will better position you to make an educated elective decision

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Written by:

Holly Mason, MS, DVM, is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Animal, Dairy, and Veterinary Science at Utah State University’s School of Veterinary Medicine, in Logan.

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