Vet: Practitioners Need Alternative Methods of Euthanizing Horses

In some scenarios, such as when working in developing countries, veterinarians might not have access to powerful drugs or firearms to euthanize horses, one veterinarian says.

alternative methods for euthanizing horses
When traveling in developing countries on Equitarian Initiative trips, Turner said he typically doesn’t have access to powerful drugs or firearms for euthanizing horses. He said his goal then becomes devising an alternative method of euthanasia that is quick, reliable, and irreversible; induces loss of consciousness with minimal pain; and is safe for personnel to handle and possible predators to consume. | Photo: Stephanie L. Church/The Horse
When faced with a horse requiring euthanasia, veterinarians are responsible for inducing death in the most humane way possible. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) lists three methods for doing so: intravenous (IV) barbiturate overdose, penetrating captive bolt, or gunshot. Sometimes, however, these options aren’t available. Plus, they come with their own set of consequences.

Tracy Turner, DVM, Dipl. ACVS, ACVSMR, of Turner Equine Sports Medicine and Surgery, in Stillwater, Minnesota, described alternative methods at the 2018 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held Dec. 1-5 in San Francisco, California.

He said the current AVMA-recommended options each pose have associated risks.

Barbiturates are toxic to animals and the environment and don’t break down easily, even after a horse’s carcass has decomposed. “This stuff doesn’t seem to go away,” said

Create a free account with to view this content. is home to thousands of free articles about horse health care. In order to access some of our exclusive free content, you must be signed into

Start your free account today!

Already have an account?
and continue reading.


Written by:

Alexandra Beckstett, Managing Editor of The Horse and 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.

Related Articles

Stay on top of the most recent Horse Health news with

FREE weekly newsletters from

Sponsored Content

Weekly Poll

sponsored by:

How often do you buy blankets for your horse?
266 votes · 266 answers

Readers’ Most Popular

Sign In

Don’t have an account? Register for a FREE account here.

Need to update your account?

You need to be logged in to fill out this form

Create a free account with!