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Aging horses and ethical concerns

Guest Author - Susan Hopf

Most horse people eventually find themselves caring for an aged and perhaps physically challenged horse. These horses (that are no longer in their prime) often require more time and money than expected and as such may strain one’s wallet as well as all efforts made toward maintaining their proper health. If such a horse then becomes critically ill tough decisions must be made – decisions that will even further strain finances and time or that, instead, will end the life of your equine companion.

When faced with such decisions, which are often laced with emotion, guilt and uncertainty (with regard to outcome as well as what sense medical intervention will really accomplish other than draining your savings) a good approach is to allow “just one more thing”. Just one more thing to fix – just one more thing to spend money on – just one more thing in order help that grand old beast that used to carry you wherever is was that you asked to be carried. Defining what that “just one more thing” might be depends upon several factors – your financial resources, your time to administer to said horse and most importantly the consideration of whether or not intervention will result in a continued quality of life for this horse when all is said and done.

Many illnesses drain the physical reserves of young and healthy horses. If your aged horse is frail and/or already physically challenged then the best decision may be to ease the animal’s suffering and not proceed with treatment. In this case the one more thing could be palliative – keep the beastie comfortable with pain management and other drugs that will make their last days happy and their appetite hearty – an extremely important aspect of all equine days.

No matter the disease or issues that must be faced it is always best to speak candidly with your veterinarian regarding just how much you can afford to spend as well as how much time you can honestly devote to your ailing horse. Let’s face it – unless you are independently wealthy your time is split between work, family and your horse. We all would like to give 100% to our four-legged friends but practical aspects of daily life sometime will not allow such – especially during those times when vet bills are mounting up. Perhaps your “just one more thing” will be some time off of work to attend to your half-ton patient.

Sadly most of us that share our lives with animals will, at some point, have to face the ultimate decision. Euthanasia should be considered a gift that we can give to our animals when their lives are no longer worth living. Whether from a chronic debilitating disease, acute or chronic organ failure, unexplained colics or a whole host of other processes that rob the grand old critters of any sort of quality of life a peaceful ending with some level of preserved dignity is the best end that anyone can expect. If there is no chance of recovery and pain cannot be managed the prolonging of life then becomes a selfishly driven human need to hold on to something that once was – we must take care to avoid falling into such a trap and let them go before the true light of their life is extinguished.
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Content copyright © 2014 by Susan Hopf. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Susan Hopf. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Kim Wende for details.

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