is it time to put him down?

Discussion in 'Other Pets & Livestock' started by slackwater, Apr 8, 2011.

  1. slackwater

    slackwater Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 1, 2010
    I have an old (20+) TWHx gelding who was given to me a few (maybe 5?) years ago. He has always been gimpy - a combination of a possible club foot (managed by my farrier) and very poor conformation (imagine a VERY upright front end). He is also partially blind (no idea why) and seems to be losing his hearing. Needless to say, he is at the bottom of my "herd" and is now separated from the other 5 equids so that he can get the feed/grass that he needs w/o being picked on. They are right over the fence, though, so it's not like he's isoalted.

    Obviously, winter is hard on him - both because of his age and his joints. But, with each one, he seems to be getting worse. The way he walks in front, his left crosses over his right, so he's always risking tripping. He seems to be losing control/coordination in his hind end and staggers sometimes there. There is crepidus in his shoulder joints and his hind end cracks with every step. The only time he moves at more than a creep is when he's being pestered by the other horses - and it hurts me to watch him.

    Yet, he eats and drinks well (though we are losing the "keeping weight on" battle slowly).

    I have tried oral and IM joint supplements to help keep him happy and moving...seem to be losing that battle also.

    With the other horses that I have had euthanized, I *knew* when it was time for them to go. I *might* have waited too long, actually, and put them through too much. I don't want to do that with Nash.

    Thoughts? Could use some horse-people insights.
  2. welsummerchicks

    welsummerchicks Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 26, 2010
    I would have to see how he moved around to be sure. Many horses single track as they get older, and some are not disturbed if they are a little wobbly.

    Crepitus in a joint is not necessarily painful for a horse. Most joints 'crack' as a horse gets older.

    For me, I am content if the horse is eating and he himself is content. Many horses are rather wobbly with age and creaky but are not suffering.

    Most oral supplements for joints have not shown to even be absorbed by the body, let alone be effective. Your horse would probably benefit from an anti-inflammatory.

    I don't think the winters in S MD are very hard, and I think if you have good ground and the horse can go out to a pasture he will probably be content for some time yet.

    Older horses just naturally distance themselves a little from the herd, and are usually more content with their own paddock rather than be picked on. I think being picked on both humiliates them and keeps them from getting enough food.

    If the horse is losing weight you may consider that an old timer may not absorb nutrients as efficiently as a younger horse. As an example of a good safe, inexpensive feed, plain beet pulp shreds can be soaked for several hours in hot water and make a very nutritious safe feed for oldsters.

    Also, if the oldster is getting wobbly, it may be due in part, (not all for sure) to lack of exercise. We hand walk our old guy in the arena for 30 minutes a day. Before we started doing that, he was quite wobbly, even for the farrier. The trouble is giving them the mild, brief, slow exercise they really require. But even 10 minutes of walking 5 days a week will help immensely.

    Too, it can help to get lameness diagnosed. Often with oldsters they get sore feet and problems that can be treated very easily by trimming or shoeing.

    If you're uncertain about what to do, consulting with your veterinarian can help. Veterinarians often see older, creakier horses and tend to have an un-emotional view of when is the appropriate time to send them to a peaceful rest.
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2011
  3. sourland

    sourland Broody Magician Premium Member

    May 3, 2009
    New Jersey
    Not a horse person here, but here is what I have done with my outside dogs. Winters are hard on all outside animals. He has made it through the winter and I would monitor how he does during the summer. If he continues to go downhill or you are no longer able to keep him separated, then "it's time." If he makes it through the summer in relatively good shape, you may want to re-evaluate before putting him through another winter. Good luck with your decision.[​IMG]
  4. HorseFeatherz NV

    HorseFeatherz NV Eggink Chickens

    Last January 2010 we put my older gelding down. He LOOKED great but moved like you are describing and continued to slow down.

    Late December 2009, I looked into his eyes and I could see he was "no longer there". The quirky, fun loving, enjoying life Arabian that I had loved for over 20 years was gone - this is how I knew. I called up the vet, and she was great. He passed so fast, she (the vet) was amazed and it really did my heart good knowing I did the right thing.

    [​IMG] I think when *we* start to wonder if it is time - then it most likely is.
  5. Rusty Hills Farm

    Rusty Hills Farm Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 3, 2008
    Up at the barn
    I have a 24-year-old qh mare and have had her for her entire life. In fact, I delivered her. She is very dear to me. Last week--Thursday night, in fact--she got kicked at the gate. After I'd put everyone else up in their stalls, I found her still standing outside the gate. She was unable to walk through the opening, that's how badly she was hurt by that single kick. We managed to get her inside the barn paddock after several hours and literally had to take down the gate and move it behind her, then rehang it because she could not manage the few steps it would have taken to allow the gate to swing shut behind her. She was BAD. The vet came out the next morning and immediately wanted to put her down. My partner feels the same as I do about her and just as immediately said no. He wanted us to give her the weekend.

    The vet agreed VERY reluctantly, pointing out that she already has a bad knee (it's about the size of a softball) and a weak hip. He did not want her to suffer needlessly and was blunt in saying so.

    Come Monday morning he arrived back at our farm with a VERY heavy heart and all the meds he would need to do the job. He never used them. He said that, except for the knee, she is healthier than HE is! She bounced right back from the kick and, with the help of about 2 grams of bute a day for 3 days, was able to deal with the pain and get on with her life.

    My point is that the old timers seem to adjust to their age and stiffness quite admirably. Yes, she is thinner than I would like, but she eats well, drinks as much as she should. She is now in the paddock that surrounds the barn, so she has full access to her own stall, her hay rack, water bucket, and feeder 24/7. Additionally, she has access to the barn's stock tank, an even bigger hay pile, and full view of her barn mates as they graze in the adjoining paddocks, so she is never alone and seems quite content. She could easily have laid down and just quit when she got hurt, but she didn't. I have to respect that choice, so I will keep doing whatever it takes to keep her going until she tells me she is done. Right now her eyes are lively and she still nibbles my hair and steals whatever is in my pocket. When the light goes out or she seems like the pain is constant or she lays down and turns her head away--then I'll know it's time and I'll do what she needs me to do for her. I brought her into this world and--even if it kills me too--I'll help her leave it, too.

  6. MustLoveHens

    MustLoveHens Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 1, 2010
    Albion, Wisconsin
    [​IMG] I'm so sorry they you are having to face this difficult decision.

    From what you describe, your horse may be developing a neurologic disorder (unstable hind end and crossing front legs) along with the signs of old age. I have a 25 year old Missouri Fox Trotter mare who has had spine and stifle issues all her life. She started to develop neurologic signs as she got older. I think that goes hand in hand with her spine problems. She has always been a hard keeper and it gets harder every year to keep weight on her. She is happy, healthy and more of a witch then ever, so life for her is good. ( Her story is a very long long story so I've really summed it up.)
    Last time the vet was out, she noticed my mare seemed neurologic and wanted to "get to the root" of it. I told her the mare's history and that as long as the mare was happy, I'm fine with her old horse foibles. I did not want the cost for a vet to rehash that which is already known.

    My advice is this, talk to your vet and ask him or her to preform a full evaluation on your gelding. Speak candidly and let him or her know exactly what you have observed with your horse and what conerns you have as far as quality of life and his safety. Each case is different. It maybe that you, your family and your vet decide to give your gelding a nice summer and as long as he is comfortable then maybe in the fall before winter sets in again will be the time to say go bye. It also maybe that the time to ease his suffering is now after the vet's "condition report".

    I have to say this, I have worked for a equine vet and I have seen the sadness and suffering of horses that had to wait to long for a kind decision to be made. One of those horses was owned by a friend of mine who would/could not let go nor say good bye when her old Cushiniod horse was suffering from absolutely horrible suspensory tendon degeneration. The vet almost had to call Animal Control on her for in humane care just so we could have the horse put down. Luckily her non-horse savvy husband called one of their friends to come and get her off the property so the husband could have the vet euthanize the horse.
    After having seen what I have seen, I'm one of those that would let go sooner rather then later to further avoid the animals suffering more. I know that we have the capability and compasion to end that suffering in a dignified and caring manner.
  7. KaneAcres

    KaneAcres New Egg

    Apr 6, 2011

    I myself have had a few equines, My first thought after reading your article re: his weight = Have you gotten his teeth floated recently? They should be floated every year especially with the senior's. They get sharp hooks on the back teeth and that makes them not want to chew or eat as much as they normally would and/or could give them choke or worse colic if he swallowed unchewed grain. Another thing is giving him some Sand Out. You can go to the tack store and look at the ingredients they are the same as human fiber tabs/or granules. But the horse version cost about twice as much.
    My first horse was a retired police horse that walked the streets for his whole life when was trained after 4 yrs. He was approx 25 yrs old when I got him. He lived another 10 full good years and I finally decided to Put him to sleep and buried him on our farm. Every year the vet would come to give him his shots he'd say wow I can't believe he still looks this good!
    Just a few suggestions to add to everyone else's that has responded I hope this might help some!
    Oh.. my daughters 21 year old retired 4H State Champ pony doesn't want any company... we tried a goat, chickens, another horse or pony isn't an option right now due to finances. We got a pigmy goat and homed him right next to Rocket for 3 months they could touch noses through their stalls and I never saw any aggression. But then one day We said its time to put him out with Rocket, Well much to our surprise He did his best to actually kill the goat if he could have caught him before the goat got under the gate, the goat tried 3 times and then I said... nope this isn't going to work. I mean Rocket was ears pinned and teeth out.. like this is my pasture... get out! I found a wonderful new home for the goat, Gus and never tried anything else. Rocket is happy with the dogs and his human companions, He lives at our mini farm contently by himself. Occasionally the neighbood horses will neigh and he might chime in and he can see other horses but does not want to share his space at all.
    Happy Trails,
    Liz and crew
  8. Slinkytoys

    Slinkytoys Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 22, 2009
    Black Forest
    I try to err on the right side......better a month too early than a day too late. I just had to make the decision for my Irish Wolfhound. She had bone cancer, we managed with pain meds for 5 mos. She enjoyed her meals, lying in the sun and had her smiley face on. About two days ago she quit eating and didn't want to limp out to her favorite sunny spot. I spent some time just sitting with her, she told me it was time. Called the vet and she gladly hopped to the van and gave me a big slurpy kiss before her last trip.
    When you wait too long, the veins will lose their tone, making it hard to inject the drugs. Animals will mask their pain to prevent the others from maiming/killing them. Since they lack the concept of "tomorrow", when today is so painful-- it becomes their reality.
  9. Judy

    Judy Chicken Obsessed Staff Member Premium Member

    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    I'm so sorry. Not a horse person here, just wanted to say I know how difficult this decision can be. I feel like I've both waited too long and not waited long enough over the years. Be at peace with whatever you decide.

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