Euthanasia is the administering of a painless death to relieve suffering. The two most common methods of euthanasia used in the horse, pony and donkey are: shooting with a free bullet or an intravenous lethal injection. Both techniques are humane and result in a quick death.
In an emergency situation euthanasia can be indicated on humane grounds e.g. severe colic or long bone fracture. This situation is often clear cut, in contrast with judging when to euthanize the old or ill horse with a declining quality of life or hopeless prognosis.
The longer ownership of horses that we are now experiencing inevitably means that there are stronger emotional ties. This strong attachment and bond can sometimes mean we delay euthanasia to protect ourselves from anticipated sadness, but this can compromise our horse’s welfare. Euthanasia can become a treatment option and timely euthanasia is good welfare. Your vet will help advise you when the time may be right. The BHS advocate the saying ‘better a week too soon, than a day too late’.
It is important to clarify what type of insurance cover you have for your horse before euthanasia. Clear communication with the insurance company and the veterinary surgeon can avoid disappointment afterwards. To be eligible for mortality insurance the reason for euthanising the horse has to follow the guidelines laid down by the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA). Your vet will be able to advise you about this. Also it is worth remembering that most insurance companies will request a post mortem to be carried out.
In partnership with The British Horse Society, World Horse Welfare and the Blue Cross, The Equine End of Life Service provides access to their additional information to help you decide of the best course of action and make you aware of support available for owners. Please see the links to their pages in the footer below.