11 Equine Matters Spring 2019 Euthanasia Euthanasia: What to expect ‘Saying goodbye to your horse at the end of a long struggle or in an emergency can send many owners into an emotional whirlwind’. Rosie Alcorn BVSc MRCVS Wright & Morten Saying goodbye to your horse at the end of a long struggle or in an emergency can send many owners into an emotional whirlwind, often leaving people feeling like a large place in their heart cannot be filled. It can be one of the most difficult times to talk about and deal with, both before, during and after it has happened. Despite dealing with euthanasia on almost a daily basis I doubt there is one member of the profession who can say that each animal put to sleep doesn’t affect them. After all, most of the veterinary profession have their own pets and so will often have first-hand personal experience of what you are feeling. Unfortunately, there is no getting away from the fact that euthanasia is never going to be easy for any owner. However, as with many things, being prepared for what is going to happen can make it a lot less stressful. The rest of this article will discuss some practical tips on what to expect. Be prepared for the end at the beginning It’s often not a nice thing to think about, but it helps to know what you are going to do with your horse once they have been euthanised. If you own your own land it may be possible to arrange for someone to bury your horse at your premises. You should check on your council website for guidance on burial restrictions with regards to waterways. If you are not a land-owner it will be necessary to arrange for someone to collect your horse. Your vet should be able to provide you with contact numbers. Make sure that the area where your horse is to be euthanised is easily accessible. Have a plan in place in case of an emergency euthanasia - it’s not a nice thing to think about but it makes a very stressful situation that little bit easier if you already know what you would do. Arrange for someone to be there for you No matter how well prepared you are, I am yet to meet an owner who has remained dry eyed at the end of having their horse put to sleep. Try to have someone there for you, even if it’s just to drive you home or make you a cup of tea. Having a close friend or partner around can really help. Consider how you are going to have your horse put to sleep In the case of an elective decision for euthanasia, you may have the choice between this being performed by injection or by gun. Be mindful that most vets do not carry guns with them routinely and so in an emergency situation, this may not be an option. The word euthanasia originated from the Greek, meaning ‘good death’ and is the technical term used by vets for putting an animal to sleep. As a vet, we perform euthanasia to relieve or prevent pain and suffering, with a death that is as stress free as possible for both horse and owner.