Animal Protection Line

Animal Care


Senior Horse Quality of Life Scale

Deciding when is the right time to euthanize a beloved horse is an emotional and difficult process

Determining if and when to euthanize a beloved horse is a difficult decision. Having the courage to make the decision to euthanize is not one that you have to make alone – reach out to your veterinarian and close friends and family to help support you in deciding when is the right time.

If your horse has been diagnosed with an illness that cannot be cured, but can be managed, your veterinarian can assist you with a treatment plan. The term “palliative care” is treating your horse to address their quality of life knowing you will not be able to cure the disease. Eventually, you may be faced with determining if the injury, disease or even old age requires greater care than you can provide, or the care that you are providing isn’t enough to ensure a good quality of life. In this case, euthanasia may be the best option.

Ask Yourself The Following Questions

  • Does the horse have pain that cannot be managed?
  • Does your horse have difficulties drinking or eating? Are medications not seeming to help?
  • Does your horse have difficulty getting up and moving around?
  • Is your horse suffering? Will a change in environment (onset of winter) cause suffering?
  • Does your horse have an incurable condition? How long will your horse be debilitated or in pain?
  • Does your horse have a condition that is prone to a sudden, catastrophic event (rupture of an organ, internal bleeding, seizure, broken bone)? The only way to guarantee your horse will pass peacefully and without stress is to euthanize before the catastrophic event happens.

Quality of Life assessments are tools that help assess the overall well-being of an animal. They are typically used when an animal has a terminal illness or is at an end of life stage. Every horse has specific needs that should be recognized and respected and a Quality of Life assessment is a way to refer to and discuss the day-to-day experiences of animals. If we can successfully meet an ailing or chronically ill horse’s basic needs, and ensure he or she is not suffering, then we can feel more confident that our efforts in preserving life are justified. However, if we can not meet their needs, Quality of Life assessments can help the family decide when it is time to let the animal go.

Extra Resources

The American Veterinary Medical Association has good information and considerations about horse euthanasia.

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