Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Elective euthanasia

When is it time to euthanize?
As the cool fall air fills the barn yard, the leaves start to change and the grass hardens off; questions about who can and who will survive the winter fills our minds.  Fall has always been one of my favourite times of year. It’s a time to reflect on the success of the year and reap the rewards of all our hard work.  It’s a time to assess which horses have had a good or great summer and which ones have had their last summer.  Winter in and around Kamloops can be tough, hard and uncompromising.  It’s not one of those things you want to survive only to succumb to the pressures of old age in the early spring.  It’s also difficult to bury horses after the frost has settled into the ground. 
The decision when or if to euthanize is a personal decision. 
What a person can provide for the geriatric patient is different for everyone.  It can be impossible to provide the care that another person is capable of giving. Every horse is an individual as well.  They can cope with different degrees of discomfort and caloric intake.  Despite our greatest efforts a few horses will not be blanketed housed and fed mush or anti-inflammatories as required, because they miss their friends too much. Other horses love the attention and extra care.
The statement that” you will know when the time is right” is a difficult statement for me.  Euthanasia and burial of a horse is a matter of organization and coordination. A decision to euthanize may not be able to be coordinated that day.  Burial is difficult for several months of the year and is mandatory for euthanasia by injection.  
Parameters I use for euthanasia are difficulty getting up and getting down. Horses need to lie down to sleep and arthritis can interfere with sleep.  Inability to gain weight or a consistently low body condition score of 3 or less. (this is where the hips, ribs, and back bone are visible). Chronic lameness or pain, depression, severe lethargy are all indications that aggressive geriatric management or euthanasia are your only options.
Horses come into life dramatically and quickly and with a lot of force. (Birthing only takes 10 minutes and is a powerful event). Horses often die in the same manner dramatically and painfully.  The thought that the horse will fall asleep and pass quietly in the night is extremely rare.  
The euthanasia process involves sedation and an injection of a large volume of a barbiturate. This causes immediate anaesthesia and relaxation and eventually death. It can be dramatic as the horse quickly goes from standing to lying down. Some horses continue to move, have muscle contractions and breath in the next few minutes.  Fortunately they are doing this with no pain.   Finally they will have decreased heart beats and then will pass.
Euthanasia of a horse or pet is never any easy decision or one to be taken lightly.  Discussion about how and when can be done with the veterinarians and staff at our clinic. 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Kamloops Horse Vet: January and Cushings Disease

Kamloops Horse Vet: January and Cushings Disease: "Our children's pony which has become the most important animal on our farm is Tickityboo. Tickyboo is a 20 something pony with chronic found..."

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

January and Cushings Disease

Our children's pony which has become the most important animal on our farm is Tickityboo. Tickyboo is a 20 something pony with chronic founder that suffers from cushings disease. In horses the elevated and un regulated levels of steroids wrecks  havoc on the horses body.  The body's inabiltiy to stop or slow steroid production leads to several side effects such as increased urination and water consumption, a decreased ability to regulate hair growth and body temperature.  in retrospect, she has been suffering for several years from this condition. Last winter the laminitis was very bad and we had box stall confined her in heavy bedding and padded her feet, we restricted her diet to low sugar foods, and gave her bute almost daily. 
We started the treatment after blood tests and a realization that she had more than just laminitis.  She gets pergolide every day and a semi restricted diet. She has put in her best winter ever.  Paul has not yet come in and said she won't get up for breakfast, or my goodness (not his words!) what are we going to do.  My son still believes she is the fastest horse on the property so she is moving a bit, but not great. 

The biggest challenge this winter is sneaking the pergolide pill into her every day.  Last winter she would eat it in some beet pulp and senior feed, but this winter she got wise to that.  We now have to stab a hole in an apple and put the pill in whole.  She has managed to not rupture the capsule into her mouth so its been working for several months, hooray.  As a paranoid veterinarian my horses are evaluated critically everyday for what disaster next beholds them.  Thankfully the pergolide has been working and my list of things to worry about has been reduced.  Maybe with some further foot modifications she could be the fastest horse on the place, especially if the thoroughbreds are all of working or being bred.

LINKS for more cushings information

Kamloops Horse Vet: A horse vet at Christmas Time

Kamloops Horse Vet: A horse vet at Christmas Time: "Wow I never thought I would do this, but I am pretty excited to start a blog. It is a pretty interesting exercise. I am hopingto use this sp..."

Monday, January 3, 2011

A horse vet at Christmas Time

Wow I never thought I would do this, but I am pretty excited to start a blog. It is a pretty interesting exercise. I am hopingto use this space to talk about fun stuff from the horse vet side of stuff and my own horse stuff.
Just working on our first email-able newsletter, which seems super crazy. But after researching and writing that I realized what I want to communicate is more personal than that and represent more me and not worrying about what everyone would say about the specific words I choose, so here goes more me.
Prepurchase Exam 
 I was so relieved to complete a prepurchase exam on a beautiful horse last week. The mare is lovely and so suited to her new owner. I worry that trying out a horse is a little like blind dating, we all put on our super happy faces and miss all the real stuff that doesn't show up until month two. The bucking, the dislike of brushing or tacking or jumping.  I did poke, prode, watch the horse ridden by two ridders. The exam itself took three hours and several phone calls and two visits. Unfortunatley,the whole thing took  a week. Fingers crossed the honeymoon between horse and rider will not be over for a long time.

Sleep Deprivation
We turned our own weanling thoroughbreds out in their own 2 acre paddock this morning. They seemed really jubilant about the process this morning but tonight I think they wanted back in the barn.  I hope they are feeling brave now waiting for the sun to come up. 
After I was enlightened on sleep deprivation in horses I am a little paranoid about it.   Traditionally, horses that fell asleep at inappropriate times were suffering from narcolepsy, fortunately a very smart guy named Dr. Joe Bertone in Calafornia,  did some amazing research and discovered they are sleep deprived. 
Horses need a few things to function to the top of their game and one of them is sleep. They can sleep standing up as we have all seen and were taught at vet school. But they really need to lay down to have a deep REM sleep.  If they don't lay down they perform poorly, fall asleep inappropriately ( at the show ring), fall asleep grooming, or wound catching themselves as they fall asleep standing up.  Classically the horses with the fetlock abrassions are falling  asleep standing, hitting the fetlocks to the ground then wake up as they hit the ground.  Horses don't lay down and rest for a few reasons: they can't, they are afraid too, no other horse is watching, pain and discomfort.  If a herd dynamic is changed or a horses environment is changed they may suffer from sleep deprivation.   To ensure your horse is functioning at his best, rule out sleep deprivation.  Here is a video and a link with one of my favorite sites. http://www.equisearch.com/resources/video/sleepdisorder_121506/