Q: Have horses been known to show any significant behavior changes–for example, becoming very agitated, wandering aimlessly, or doing things completely out of character–right before death? And if so, why does this happen?–Shirley, via email

A: I have not seen many horses die naturally, without euthanasia. I have seen some that were judged to be pretty close to death. What the horse might do when near death would, of course, depend on the cause of death—in other words, what the horse would physically be able to do. I have seen some start nibbling bedding or hay, even if they had not been interested in eating for some time. I have also seen some down horses go through periods during which they seem compelled to try to get up, but have difficulty rising. They seem more agitated about it at this stage than they had appeared in earlier stages of their deteriorating condition.

It would be great to hear from readers that have had experiences with this. It would also be good to hear from folks with hospice experience with humans and animals to see if there are analogous behaviors and how we might interpret those behaviors.