Should I euthanize my laminitic horse?

January 26, 2012

When I originally wrote this post, Laminil hadn’t appeared as a possible treatment for laminitis, and I painted a grim picture of life for a chronically laminitic horse.

The existence of Laminil changes my answer considerably. Several horses treated with Laminil in May 2013 recovered nicely, and their future is not grim.

Assuming Laminil receives approval from the FDA, I would recommend a laminitic horse be treated with Laminil first before doing anything else.

If the horse returns to soundness, the owner will still need to find what triggered the laminitis. I have failed on this front for 15 years, so I won’t pretend it will be easy. I don’t know if repeated Laminil treatments to the foot would be an option if a horse kept getting new bouts of laminitis, but that seems plausible.

If the horse does not respond to treatment, then your options become less promising.

Over my years fighting laminitis, I had one vet who fought tooth and nail to keep my horses alive. I had another vet tell me to put them all down, cut my losses and move on before my life was over.

I originally thought the first vet was right. Then, I believed the second vet was equally right. Now, I don’t know.

This year (2013), I’ve been hearing of lot of laminitic horses being put down and replaced. Money is tight, and people want to enjoy a horse that already costs a lot of money. It’s a business decision.

Also, traditionally, a horse’s chances of having a quality life after developing laminitis have been small.

I didn’t realize that at the outset of my first case in 1998. I remember asking my vet how long until the horse recovered. I can still remember him pausing and searching for the right words. He didn’t want to say never. But, that’s what he was thinking.

Some laminitic horses have had stretches of a quality life. Have those stretches made up for the pain the horse had to go through in between?

My horses have always fallen into this category. I have spent a lot of money on little things, such as boots, duct tape and supplements, to keep them going, and keeping a horse in boots is pretty much a 24/7 project. Has it been worth it? For me? For them?

I kept Angel alive for seven years because I had every hope that science would develop a treatment to restore her feet before she got so bad that she couldn’t hang on. When she hit the point of being miserable, that treatment had not materialized. So one could make the judgment that keeping Angel alive was a complete and total waste of money, and additionally I kept her hopes alive that treatment was on the way only to have to go back and tell her nobody could help her and that final day had come.

She looked so much more peaceful in death than any day that she struggled through laminitis. I can’t say keeping her alive was the right thing to do.

Owners of horses with new cases of laminitis have much better options as far as treatments and hoof trimming guidelines. It’s work. But I don’t believe it’s hopeless anymore.



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