Euthanasia is not something anyone enjoys talking about, but if you have horses or other pets it is a subject that will most likely need to be addressed at some point. Researching options and selecting the most appropriate situation can minimize the stress and pain for both you and your horse when that time comes. It’s better to approach this topic and the decisions you will need to make, when all your animals are happy and healthy.
Talk with your veterinarian about the options for your horse. There are several humane options, but you need to be prepared for how they are handled and what to expect. Horses are highly intuitive creatures and will sense that you are upset. While a feeling of sadness and stress is normal, knowing what and how things will happen does minimize stress for everyone.
Think about how you might react during the euthanasia. Do not feel guilty if you cannot be there in the final few moments; say your goodbyes, step away, and have an experienced person hold your horse for the veterinarian.
The location where your horse is euthanized may be influenced by your plan for the body. The area may need to have access for large vehicle collection or be close to a burial area if that is an option. In Polk County, you can bury your own horse on your property as long as the entire body is two feet below the ground. If you’d prefer to have the body taken away, work with your veterinarian to get the phone numbers of people who offer this service.
It is best to form a plan and keep it with your horse’s paperwork or where your horse is stabled. This plan should contain emergency contact details if you are unavailable and what method of disposal of the body is preferable. The World Horse Welfare Charity has produced a comprehensive “just in case” owner plan pack with pertinent information. Options can be discussed with your veterinarian to help you decide what’s best.
column by DR. KATIE ENNESSY
BIO: Dr. Katie Hennessy graduated from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine in 2008 with a degree in large animal health and equine medicine. She completed an advanced internship at The Equine Medical Center of Ocala and is currently the owner and practicing veterinarian at Polk Equine. Her expertise ranges from small and exotic creatures to large animals, specializing in equine medicine.