Quality of life question ...

I’d like to get some opinions on quality of life for my retired gelding diagnosed with cushings and likely another neurological component – this is after several months of knowing something was wrong but not knowing exactly what. He also has arthritis.

He’s on medication for cushings, equioxx as an anti-inflammatory, and vitamin e for neuro issues. He’s mobile, and he can easily move around. But he will not lift his hind legs anymore.

He lives on my farm, so I see him daily and the additional care is not a concern for me. I am, however, worried that he’s more uncomfortable than I recognize (he has always been kind of stoic).

I do not think I can objectively judge how big of a deal it is that I can’t lift his hind hooves for daily cleaning, or farrier visits. Is that cause for euthanasia?

Any thoughts or anecdotes are helpful here …

I have a mare who I am back and forth on the fence of euthanizing. I had a vet’a go ahead this spring when she was looking awful, but since she’s out weight. We are now battling lameness. I brought her out of retirement to be leased for a walk/trot rider and that blew up in my face…after having shoes done…I got a lame horse back that needed x-rays because we couldn’t figure out what was going on and now I have a game plan…except they pulled the lease, so now she’s back to being retired.

What made my decision is she’s still the spunky little redhead dragging me all over the place because what are manners? She still has the sparkle in her eye that she’s not ready to give up…she’s a drama queen when it comes to pain, and makes it very known when something is bothering her, so I don’t feel that I will ever been in the situation of “is now the right time?”

If you are noticing that he is more off and loosing weight, I am in the camp of it’s better a day too soon than a day too late. I did that with my dog, she started seizing on a Friday night, I dropped her off at the vet 6am Saturday morning (the day I put shoes on my retired mare which started this snowball of issues with her!) and she came home Sunday morning and was fine…until she started seizing (they only seemed to happen at night and when she was sleeping…) and she had 3 within an hour and one on the way back to the vet. She gave me the most pitiful look of “I can’t do this anymore.” After the 3rd one so I let her go.

If your horse was mine, knowing what Ohio winters can entail - there would be no hesitation that putting him down is the right thing. Winters can get rough here…and ice is dangerous for horses who have no issues with their legs, let alone those that struggle.

I’m sorry about your mare. Dealing with unknown lameness is challenging and frustrating.

He is losing weight, yes. It was always very easy to keep weight on him, so I think I’m a little more sensitive to the weight loss. My vet does not seem concerned at this point.

The thoughts about winter do concern me, too. We’re in the Virginia mountains. Not a long winter but there is snow and cold.

And I agree that a day too early is better than a day too late. I’m just concerned that this is more than just a day too early. Sigh.

OP - can your horse lay down and get up? The LAST thing you want is for him to go down and be stuck…

I would also say that if you (and farrier) can’t care for his feet safely then you are facing other potential problems as well. What will you do as feet grow? What if he gets an abcess? Thrush? I would be very concerned about drugging a neuro horse.

I’ve been down the neuro path, and was approaching a decision when complications from lymphangitis forced one on me. My guy was dropping weight no matter what we fed him.

Sorry you have to deal with this…

He can get down and up, though I suspect he doesn’t do that often … probably because he’s uncomfortable or fearful he can’t get up quickly enough.

But yes. That’s exactly my concern – the abscesses or thrush, especially since he’s been prone to both in recent years. Farrier has been able to quickly trim the bars, but can’t get a good look at his sole. I’ve been lucky in that this happened in a dry time of year and colder, so hoof growth is slower. So, no idea when we get to that point. Which is my concern.

It’s incredibly hard to consider euthanasia when the horse seems relatively ok. Especially when I know people keep horses alive through much more challenging issues. Not being able to lift his legs seems like such a lame and horrible reason, although objectively I know it’s a reasonable consideration.

It sounds like you’re putting a lot of consideration into this, especially from the standpoint of what you’re seeing re: changes in his condition and behavior. You’re being very thoughtful to consider his quality of life.

I lost one a couple years ago, she had chronic cellulitis and over the years when she’d have bouts of it, she seemed slower and slower to heal. The good days were still great, but seeing how much discomfort she was in when it was bad was heartbreaking. One winter she had a front leg with cellulitis, and her demeanor was so somber. She seemed depressed, stopped lying down, started to be off her feed, and the other legs looked like they just wanted to buckle. It became clear to me that it wasn’t fair to her to try and pull her through this again, only knowing that with everything going on with her we’d be facing it again, and again, and again…

Give your horse lots of hugs. Be thankful for those good days. Be compassionate when he gives you the look that it’s time.

Does he lift his feet at all? I have a gelding who I suspect has shivers and he is most comfortable if I position his hind leg so it is resting the toe on the ground. Is that something he could handle?

Shivers can also contribute to weight loss/inability to keep condition, I know you said he is on vitamin E but maybe the levels could use a tweak? My guy was hopelessly losing no matter what I fed until I started him on a e/se supplement (obviously have to test levels to ensure you aren’t od’ing the selenium).

It doesn’t sound like you are quite ready to let him go yet, but I don’t think anyone would think less of you if you did. My guy is also incredibly stoic and I understand wondering if they are really happy or just existing. It’s unfortunate that there is not more research about shivers, I’m sorry.

I am so, so sorry OP. I have one right now on borrowed time who is going through something very similar, undiagnosed neurological issues and CA and EOTRH as well… He is compromised when holding up a hind leg but with sedation and bute he can manage and our farrier is very patient with him. He is still very much mobile in the field and healthy and happy otherwise. I have had him since I was 12, so yes… the sentimentality is very much there.

We know he is on borrowed time and watch him every day: he is not stoic, so it is easier for us to know when It Is Time. One way to know is to ask “is he thriving? Or surviving?” No one here would possibly fault you for considering his eternal comfort over your own – that is a battery of discomforts to have and it is better to give him one final best day ever than wait until it is too late…

After seeing and handling many horses with shivers… there is no good outcome. I am really sorry OP, hugs and jingles for you and your old man.

Someone said you sound like you’re not ready to let him go - I can assure you that you never will be ready.

My last horse started dropping weight for no apparent reason two summers before his last. I taped him twice a week and every time he was down 15-20 lbs. I wondered if he was telling me he was done. As foolish as it sounds I told him that if he was ready to go I would help, all he had to do was keep dropping weight. Then I asked him to stick around for the summer, and when it was time he could start losing weight again and I would figure it out and help him go. The weight loss stopped and he even gained a bit back.

His final spring I knew that I would be letting him go in the fall. His back end had gotten very weak; not so that anyone watching him would have noticed, but I felt it when I rode him. Even in his last days an observer would not have seen any reason for euthanizing him, but I could see the legion of changes that showed he was done.

Do not let your horse suffer because nobody else can see it’s time to let him go. I was prepared to do battle had my vets breathed a word of opposition (they know me and didn’t question). My BOs were surprised when I told them. I know my horses best. I see and feel the tiny changes in attitude, personality, and character before anyone else would notice anything. I have to trust myself, and make note of these little changes (especially at the end of life). It is a hard thing to do, and keep on doing, but no one else can do it as well as I can for my horse.

You do not have to wait until anyone can see it is time to let your horse go. You know him best. There is no insufficient reason if your gut is telling you it is time. Go talk to your horse.

((((Hugs)))) :frowning:

The main side effect of pergolide (Prascend) is anorexia. We’ve dealt with this in several of our residents. The best approach is to drop him down to a half, or possibly even a quarter, tablet per day, and over a period of time (for some horses it only takes a couple of weeks, for the hardest cases it has taken months) build him back up to his appropriate dose.

As far as the shivers, my number one rule is a horse has to be able to get up and down without help. If they can’t get up that is the most scary thing for a horse and I don’t want any of our residents struggling with that on a regular basis. It sounds like the farrier appts are really hard on him. Can the farrier trim his hinds from the ground, with his foot flat or cocked up and resting, using nippers? We’ve done that for a couple of horses and it has worked well.

It’s tough to watch them get old, and like people some age a lot more easily and gracefully than others. You know him best since you live with him every day. Trust your instincts, even if they’re telling you something you don’t want to hear. He’s lucky to have you.

Wishing you good luck with this difficult situation. It’s one so many of us face with our oldsters. I’m confident you will do what’s right at the right time.

As heartbreaking as it is, trust your gut, beleive what he is telling you and by all means ask him for a specific sign he only wants one more favor from you. I would say as long as food n fluids go in n out he can get up n down and “his eye says HI!!!” He had quality of life, but watch his eye and have a plan you can put into action.

I’m going to say if you’re even asking the question then it’s probably time. My standard has always been to ask:

  1. Are they uncomfortable, confused or in pain?
  2. Are they in danger of hurting themselves or someone handling them?
  3. Is the situation only going to get worse from this point on?

If you have exhausted treatment options, he’s losing weight and the answer to any of the above questions is yes, then I don’t think you need to worry that you’re making the decision too early. And you are 100% that a day early is better than a day late. You sound like a compassionate, responsible owner and based on what you described, euth at this point would be both compassionate and responsible.

My heart breaks for you as my young gelding has mild shivers too. It doesn’t affect him at all currently except for farrier visits and I hope it’s years before it progress s, but I’m aware that someday I’ll be in your shoes. I hope I will have the wisdom and strength to make the decision early enough when that time comes.

Hugs to you

My shivers guy was much better for the farrier on Gabapentin. Might be worth a try. But yes, if you can spare them the trauma of not being able to get up or a very bad injury from wonky legs it seems like the kindest thing to do.

I had a gelding that was neurological. He had a year where he was safe to handle, but no longer safe to ride. I had been watching him for quite a long time for any sign that his symptoms were getting worse. I was letting horses into their stalls to eat. He walked into his stall and almost fell trying to turn around to get to his feed bucket. This was in October 5 years ago. I knew that if he couldn’t handle turning around in a bedded stall, he wasn’t going to handle ice or snow. It made the decision that day.

It was hard and easy at the same time. I didn’t want him to suffer, but it was hard saying goodbye to my partner of 24 years.

Jingling for you both.

I think if you’re having to ask this question, you already have your answer.

It sounds like he is slowly deteriorating, he’s older and each year is going to get harder. Obviously not an ideal age to have to be thinking about this, when 18 is still a great age for many, but one with progressive arthritis and neuro issues, it catches up sooner than we would like.

I had wise advice from a vet when we put our 22 year old mare down 2 years ago. When the decision is hard to make, its the right time. Its when the decision is easy to make, that you’ve waited too long.

We like to keep them around as long as we can, for us, and for them, but mostly us. If you feel his quality of life is deteriorating, then let him go with dignity.

I’m sorry you’re having to go through this back and forth stressful process. IMO, I think it’s time to let him cross the rainbow bridge. The longer you keep trying, the more its going to cost you, and you don’t know if he will remain comfortable. Not sure about your climate, but winter is a big factor here in Canada when it comes to older horses, soundness and well being.

Jingles to you during this difficult time.

Thank you all so much for your very kind words and thoughtful responses. Your stories and experiences help put the situation into perspective.

I suspect I’ll have to make the “final” decision much sooner than I’d like, but as many of you pointed out, it’s much better than making it too late.

My shivers guy was much better for the farrier on Gabapentin. Might be worth a try. But yes, if you can spare them the trauma of not being able to get up or a very bad injury from wonky legs it seems like the kindest thing to do.[/QUOTE]

Can you say more about this? Dose? How long he was on it?

Is he on previcox for the arthritis? I can be very helpful and cheap if you’re vet will still prescribe the dog sized tablets.

Also, vitamin e couldn’t hurt. I just started giving it to both my horses. Not huge amounts, just 800 IU for my mare and 1600 IU for the gelding that has more issues. I’m currently buying 400 IU softgels at the grocery store for pretty cheap, but plan to get them on Amazon for even less. I’m using the natural vitamin e.

Is he on previcox for the arthritis? I can be very helpful and cheap if you’re vet will still prescribe the dog sized tablets.

Also, vitamin e couldn’t hurt. I just started giving it to both my horses. Not huge amounts, just 800 IU for my mare and 1600 IU for the gelding that has more issues. I’m currently buying 400 IU softgels at the grocery store for pretty cheap, but plan to get them on Amazon for even less. I’m using the natural vitamin e.[/QUOTE]

Thank you for the suggestions. He is on equioxx – my vet’s office is offering it at the same price as the dog sized tablet. As far as vitamin e, he is getting a daily dose. Hey, for what it’s worth, you may want to check with your vet about the type of vitamin e you’re giving. My vet prescribed a specific type that’s more soluble for horses.