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When is the right time to PTS?

(37 Posts)
Blodplod Thu 02-Mar-17 11:57:33

Hello, I'm wondering if anyone can offer me some opinions and advice regards my horse.

To give a bit of history, my mare was abandoned at a yard I used to keep horses at. Its a long story, but I took her on and offered her a home for life. To ensure her safety more than anything else. She is now 22. In the 10 years I have had her she has been a light hack really, she's more a pet than me buying a horse for competitions or to do a job. I'm not sure this is relevant but to set the scene, she doesn't "owe" me anything, it doesn't matter if I ride her or not, I am just happy to look after her and let her have a nice life (she deserves it, she had a rough time before I got her).

Anyhow, over the last 2 years she has been diagnosed with laminitis. It doesn't present itself classically, and I have had the vet out now about 10 times. She goes chronically, hopping lame (rear) and with a few days off the grass, some danilon etc she can then be turned back out, although realistically this needs to be limited turnout. During this diagnosis, many x rays were taken, she had a glucose test for Equine Metabolic Syndrome and blood test for cushings. She was tested negative for cushings, and positive for EMS and nothing concrete was shown on the xrays. The upshot to all this is her diet needs to be strictly managed and turnout limited with a grazing muzzle.

The vet is keen for me to be riding (gentle hacking but regularly) to keep a check on her weight, but I have also noticed over the last 2 years she has started to stumble. I have had a couple of stumbles where she has gone right down (feels like her stomach is going to hit the floor...) and I have gone flying with her and been surprised she's got back up. I used to think it was just tripping over but now I've really thought long and hard about it, it's getting more regular (every ride, but not always that dramatic as I've just described). It's getting to the point that riding is not that comfortable, I am constantly worried she's going to go down on her knees. I have thought about buying knee boots, but in reality I don't think that's the answer.

During the last 3 months of the last year she went lame again which didn't present the same as laminitis - I had her seen by physio, and she had bowen treatment and became sound.

So in between bouts of lameness, laminitis etc there isn't really much time to ride and to be honest I am thinking of retiring her, well, she is virtually retired as my "riding" in reality is an hours walking hack maybe once or twice a week.

So, she has just had another really bad attack of laminitis - I didn't even think there was any grass in the field (!). She is now box rested and hopefully come the weekend may be able to be turned out for a couple of hours. It's very hard for me to see her in so much pain with it.

There is a lot more emotionally to all of this, but I can't ramble on and on. She is an absolute darling, I love her to bits, I worry about her all the time. Timewise and financially its not a burden, however I am beginning to wonder if limited turnout for an older stiff horse is actually very fair?

She's well in herself, she looks well, she's got good teeth, feet etc - however the laminits flare ups are getting more regular despite her not being weighty at the moment.

My question is, when is the right time to start thinking about what to do for her for the best? If she could happily go out all day (or night during the summer) and just have an easy retirement it would be a no brainer. However, the last two years have been an emotional rollercoaster, I have had a whispering voice in my head during this time to start preparing myself for the worst, and I'm seriously beginning to wonder if its best to PTS sooner rather than later.

Any thoughts, and opinions gratefully received.

MrsderPunkt Thu 02-Mar-17 13:48:10

I'm always firmly on the side of 'better a week early than a day late'.

Part of being a responsible owner is taking emotion out of the equation and looking what is actually best for the animal, not deciding to retire it to a field just because you can.

Lush grass will make things worse, and starvation paddocks/stabling isn't a good quality of life. Add lameness to the equation and to be honest, I wouldn't want to live like that.

Garnethair Thu 02-Mar-17 14:50:40

Agree. Better a week too early.

I can think of two horses who are in their twenties, kept on starvation paddocks with grazing muzzles on and still get laminitis. I don't think they have a decent quality of life and if they were mine they would be pts. It's a kindness to pts an animal when they have a condition that limits the quality of their life.

Frouby Thu 02-Mar-17 14:59:36

I have an older pony. Had her 12 years, she is 17 now. Similar to your girl but tested borderline for cushings. The test can throw up false negative/positives apparently depending on what time of year it is done.

She has struggled through the last 2 winters. Either on boxrest or turned out in the sand paddock. On prascend and bute. She also had an operation on her near hind as an 8 year old that fills quite dramatically during boxrest.

My girl will hopefully have the summer. Then come September she will be pts.

I could probably keep going a couple more years but I hate seeing her in pain, she isn't going to get better, only worse and I can't put her through another 3 months of pain and discomfort and boxrest and restricted grazing for another winter.

Over summer she will live out on sparse grazing with her friends. If she gets bad before then she will be going. But hopefully she will have the summer.

In your case you need to consider her quality of life and her long term prognosis.

snowpo Thu 02-Mar-17 22:25:47

Oh I'm so sorry, it sounds awful.
From what you are saying I would be inclined to give her a few more weeks to get my head round it and say goodbye and then let her go before the spring grass comes in.
It sounds like if you continue to ride her she could injure herself or you. The amount of excercise you can give her is unlikely to keep much of a check on her weight anyway.
If you decide not to PTS you might end up with an emergency situation where she is in such a state that your hand is forced.
I had my lovely old mare PTS due to arthritis, she was happy and bright but she had stopped lying down in her stable. I could see she was uncomfortable despite long term bute and knowing her I imagine the pain was actually worse than I could 'see'.
It absolutely tore me to pieces but I would never have forgiven myself if she had gone down in the field and had to wait for me to find her and be forced to PTS.
Someone said 'if their tomorrow is worse than their today then the time has come'. I knew she could only ever go in the wrong direction so it was better to say goodbye before she was miserable.

It is a horrible decision to make but sometimes it's the kindest thing.

Blodplod Fri 03-Mar-17 06:13:56

Thank you all for your replies. They've been very helpful. I have arranged to speak to my vet today regards options- she's been my vet for years and I trust her judgement. I strongly suspect she will agree that the time is right. About April last year it all flared up again after a few months reprieve in winter and I starting preparing myself for the worse then. In my heart of hearts I know the time is right.

I have to just be confident that I've given her a great life.. she's cuddled everyday, has a stupidly thick bed every night and is massively loved by myself and family. As you've all said better to do it now before the situation gets worse.

Thank you.

Gabilan Fri 03-Mar-17 18:46:56

I hope it went ok with the vet today. I agree with PP that you're there or thereabouts. Horses have evolved to hide pain and I think we often don't really know how bad it is for them. A gentle hack a couple of times a week will do very little to control weight gain and I've known people have dreadful, life changing injuries from a horse simply tripping. Laminitis is a horrible disease and I've seen a horse have a sudden attack resulting in emergency euthanasia. All in all the prognosis isn't good.

Such a shame when usually we think we can give a horse a good last summer but I think few people would blame you if you made the decision now. It's a decision that you need to make with your head, not your heart.

Blodplod Fri 03-Mar-17 21:23:06

Thank you Gabilan, and others. I've had a long chat with my vet - she's amazing. And we've both agreed that the kindest most respectful decision is to PTS. She's given me free rein to ramp pain relief to the max. This weekend is all about cuddles, grooming, bit of turnout (it's not going to make any difference in the long term) and we are scheduled for euthanasia on Monday. I'm gutted but I know it's totally the right decision. I think in my heart of hearts I've known for the last two years this day was imminent. Thank you for the comments, they've been hugely helpful. Sometimes having a non emotive view from a bunch of strangers is more helpful than talking to an emotive friend or family member! Xxxxxxxx

Blodplod Fri 03-Mar-17 21:31:45

I hope I don't sound too factual or cold in my posts.. I've cried a river yesterday and today - it's like a tap that won't stop, but, I know through it all I'm making the right choice.. there's no doubt. Thank you everyone for your help

snowpo Fri 03-Mar-17 22:27:39

Really feel for you. Sounds like you have a good vet to help you through. It's the worst bit now, waiting for the day to come.
I think for your own sake you've done the right thing to arrange it quickly once the decision is made.
Look after yourself xx

Gabilan Fri 03-Mar-17 22:51:08

You don't sound cold at all OP. It's a brave decision and you're doing the right thing for her. I'm so sorry. It is the toughest thing to do.

Garnethair Sat 04-Mar-17 07:25:21

Bless you. What a kind and lovely owner you are. It's such a tough call, but the right call. Thinking of you this weekend x

Rollingdinosaur Sat 04-Mar-17 14:10:38

I had tears in my ears reading that. What a lucky horse. It sounds like you have given her a lovely life over the last few years, and you are making the right choice for her now. I hope her last days are peaceful for both of you.

MrsderPunkt Sat 04-Mar-17 14:23:05

Well done, brave decision, these couple of days will be the worst, but hopefully she's spending the day in a sunny paddock - it's quite nice here right now, will be thinking of you on Monday, xx.

Frouby Sat 04-Mar-17 19:16:56

Ah love. It's shit but it really is the kindest thing to do. I have nightmares that I will find dpony down and crippled and have to do it in an emergency.

It's the last kindness we can show them. Will be thinking of you Monday xx

Blodplod Sat 04-Mar-17 19:46:49

Wow! You've all been amazing. Frouby, sorry about your girl.. at least you've had the sense to have a plan. I can only applaud you for that. snowpo, your messages have helped me (though I've cried). Everyone on this thread has helped.. I've had wine so I can't actually type out all, but you've been fantastic. I've read this thread a million times. Today we had a few hours in the sunshine (yay). Sadly she's developed another problem with bad cracked heels. I can't explain all the long drawn out process surrounding this additional problem (pink lotion from vets which is steroid and antobiotic based). I haven't had to use it in 8 months but a week in the stable with no mud, washing off etc has it flared up? Stress? I'm not sure. Anyhow, we've had virtually all day together tinkering.. bit of turnout in the sunshine. Loads of apples, carrots, cuddles and treats.. I just want to fast forward to Monday. The waiting is taking forever. I've waited it feels like 72 hours in 12..

justnippingin Sun 05-Mar-17 10:22:09

Thank goodness she found you Blod, it sounds to me that she's had the most wonderful life with you guys.

Enjoy each other today, I'll be thinking of you tomorrow. Sending love. (I admire you greatly),

Sweepingchange Mon 06-Mar-17 20:05:51

Just came on to say hope you are as ok as you can be in circumstances today Blodplod flowers

Fwiw you've done the right thing. The only regrets we have ever had regarding animals in our family was dithering too much at the end and allowing them to go on when they weren't really enjoying life.

Sorry for your loss too Snowpo

Blodplod Mon 06-Mar-17 20:36:07

Thank you... I'm glad to be able to share.. sorry if self indulgent.. after the decision was made on Friday major crying followed but I carried on as normal at the yard in front of dhorse. I turned her out in sunshine Saturday, Sunday and today. Things changed though, her behaviour changed and the 'herd' (one mare, her field mate) started to cast her out of the herd and today and yesterday dhorse just stood in the field not eating. We turned her out this morning for an hour, I bought her back in knowing she didn't want to be out.. she mentally started to shut down and was so very sore again. I started to explain over the last couple of days what was going to happen - she was going to go to sleep and wake up with all her friends in a lush friend and galloping free.. my husband who is non horsey believes she knew she was safe, and going to a better place. She looked today like she had given up. We fed her all her banned foods.. it was serenely peaceful. My vet, who I have known for about 14 years took total care of her. She was amazing and said I was 100% right in my decision and I think next week would have been a week too late. She was an amazing mare. I've had lots of horses but this was different, she was my soul mate. I've had so many messages of support that I've never had with other horses.. she touched everyone that met her. My friend describes her as an 'earth mother'. I feel grateful to have had the privilege to have had such a special friend in my life. Thank you all. You've helped more than you realise. X

Sweepingchange Mon 06-Mar-17 20:40:47

Ah Blodpod - understood - every now and again you have an animal that you really bond with above and beyond all the others.

So glad that it went as well as it possibly could do today and that you and your vet were able to give your lovely mare such a peaceful end. Painful though it is, it sounds as though you timed it perfectly for her.

Garnethair Mon 06-Mar-17 20:44:55

Bless you. A peaceful end is a lovely thing. A life well lived and a kind and loving owner is all we can hope for our horses. You've done well. X

Gabilan Mon 06-Mar-17 20:51:32

Thank you for coming back Blodpod. I felt like my first horse was my soulmate. Like you, when the time came I felt as if he'd actually had enough. I gave him a peaceful end surrounded by people who cared about him. I think it's significant, though sad, that her herd were pushing her out.

After a while, you become more grateful for the time you had with them and the pain of losing them diminishes. I don't think it ever goes and in a way, it probably shouldn't.

LittleCandle Mon 06-Mar-17 20:56:38

I know how hard this must have been for you, Blod, but it sounds as though you gave your old girl a great life and you made your decision at the right time. Hats off to you in your brave decision.

QuestionableMouse Mon 06-Mar-17 21:00:33

I'm so very sorry for your loss.

justnippingin Mon 06-Mar-17 21:46:12

It's so hard and sad. You were both really lucky to have each other. You did a wonderful, kind thing for her today. Happy memories.

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