Euthanasia in Horses


Horses provide their owners, riders and trainers with a lifetime of love and affection, but the average lifespan of a horse is around 25 years. That lifespan feels very short compared to that of their human caretakers, especially when many people buy their horses as trained adults. As a horse owner it can be very difficult to know when your horse’s time has come. Horses’ health can decline for a variety of reasons including organ failure, cancer or crippling arthritis. The most important consideration is quality of life. Some horses may slow down dramatically in their old age, but feel content to lounge around the pasture in retirement. Euthanasia is a very personal decision, but if your horse is in chronic pain that can no longer be managed, it may be time to talk to your vet. Consider the situation from your horse’s point of view and ask yourself if you are keeping them alive for your own reasons. There always comes a time when the animal’s suffering becomes too great.


There are some cases when a young and otherwise healthy horse may get sick or injured so badly that the cost of surgery or treatment is prohibitive. Most vets offer some kind of payment plan or financial aid so you should never feel pressured to put down your animal due to financial reasons.


People react to the loss of their horse very differently. Some people prefer to put their horse down in the fall rather than force them to endure another grueling winter, which can take its toll on geriatric horses. Please think of the friendship and comfort your horse has provided you throughout their life, as short as it may be, and consider being there for them when their time comes to cross the rainbow bridge.




Veterinary Medical Ethics


Euthanasia of companion animals: a legal and ethical analysis.


An ethicist’s commentary on the case of a client who won’t euthanize a suffering foal.