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  • Required for cases where finances or available treatments are inadequate to satisfactorily reduce the horse's suffering.


  • Use minimal pain and distress in order to bring about death.
  • Technique should result in loss of consciousness → cardiac arrest → loss of brain function.


  • Safety of personnel.
  • Adequate restraint and facilities.
  • Advance arrangements for carcass disposal for elective euthanasia.
  • Have the following contact numbers (where appropriate) readily available at the practice:
    • Knackerman.
    • Hunt kennelman.
    • Licensed horse slaughterer.
    • Local authority.
    • Incinerator.
    • Animal crematorium.
  • Try to acquire some experience in euthanasia of horses with an experienced equine veterinarian or knackerman.

Ideal method

  • Death should be instantaneous, quiet and without premonition.
  • Agent should be safe for both operator and public.
  • Agent should be easy to store and handle.
  • Agent should be convenient to administer.
  • Agent should not cause problems with carcass disposal.
  • Handle horse quietly at all times - use good head restraint, eg twitch Restraint methods or chemical restraint Anesthesia: standing chemical restraint.


  • In emergency situations, the site at which euthanasia is performed is often predetermined.
  • Ease of access for knacker wagon should be considered.
  • The horse may fall in such a way as to create additional difficulties.
  • Shield procedure and carcass from public view where possible, eg hand-held tarpaulins.

Euthanasia in a horse box or alongside a previously prepared grave can be extremely dangerous.

Print off the Owner factsheets on Coping with the loss of a petEuthanasia - saying goodbyeExplaining pet loss to children and Insurance - do I need it? to give to your clients.


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Intravenous euthanasia

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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Knottenbelt D C (1995) Euthanasia of horses - alternatives to the bullet. In Pract 17 (10), 462-465 WileyOnline.
  • Knottenbelt D C et al (1994) Humane destruction of horses with a mixture of quinalbarbital and cinchocaine. Vet Rec 134 (13), 319-324 PubMed.
  • American Veterinary Medical Association (1993) Report of AVMA panel on euthanasia. JAVMA 202 (2), 229-249 PubMed.
  • Jones R S, Knottenbelt D K, Mason K & O'Donnell E (1992) Euthanasia of horses. Vet Rec 130 (24), 544 PubMed.
  • Jones R S (1992) Euthanasia in horses. Equine Vet Educ (3), 154 WileyOnline.
  • Oliver D F (1979) Euthanasia of horses. Vet Rec 105, 224 PubMed.

Other sources of information

  • Humane Slaughter Association (2014) Farewell - Making the Right Decision. HSA, UK. pp 1-11. Website: (pdf download).
  • Knottenbelt D C & Merseyside Police Firearms Training Unit (1999) Firearms Law - How does it affect the Vet. In: Clinical Pathology/Therapeutics Litigation and Insurance Problems. University of Liverpool, UK. pp 173-186.
  • Jones B (1996) Equine Euthanasia in the Competition Situation. In: A Guide to the Management of Emergencies at Equine Competitions. BVA/EVJ, UK.

Related Images


Abdomen: abscess

Abdomen: pain - adult

Abdomen: peritonitis

Anesthesia: standing chemical restraint

Behavior: aggression

Behavior: aggression - hormone related

Bladder: cystorrhaphy

Bladder: paralysis

Cardiogenic shock

Cecum: perforation


Chordae tendineae: rupture

Chronic inflammatory bowel disease


CNS: myeloencephalopathy - EHV

Colon: resection

Colon: torsion

Coxofemoral joint: disease - overview

Detomidine hydrochloride

Dispensing (USA)

Equine infectious anemia (EIA)

Esophagus: megaesophagus

Eye: night blindness

Eyeball: microphthalmos

Foal: neonatal septicemia syndrome

Foot: laminitis

Gastrointestinal: clostridiosis

Gastrointestinal: ileus

Gastrointestinal: neoplasia

Gastrointestinal: stricture


Grass sickness

Histoplasma spp

Humerus: fracture

Ileum: impaction

Immune-mediated disease: overview

Immunology: combined immunodeficiency

Intravenous catheterization

Joint: immune-mediated polysynovitis

Larynx: arytenoidectomy

Lymphoproliferative disorders

Lymphosarcoma: overview

MC / MT 3: condylar fracture

MC / MT 3: diaphysis fracture

MCP / MTP joint: arthrodesis

MCP/MTP joint: luxation

Muscle: myopathy - sporadic exertional rhabdomyolysis

Musculoskeletal: fracture - first aid

Mycobacterium spp

Navicular bone: fracture

Neurology: examination - adult

Neurology: motor neuron disease

Neurology: shivering

Neurology: stringhalt

Optic nerve: hypoplasia

Optic nerve: neuropathy - trauma

Orbit: neoplasia - primary

Ovary: colpotomy

Ovary: neoplasia - overview

Ovary: ovariectomy - laparotomy approach

Patella: luxation

Pemphigus vulgaris

Percutaneous electrical nerve stimulation

Perineum: trauma - repair

Polyneuritis equi

Prepubic tendon: rupture


Restraint methods


Scapula: fracture

Sodium for euthanasia

Spine: deformity

Spine: fracture

Stomach: rupture

Suxamethonium chloride


Toxicity: lead

Toxicity: locoweed

Toxicity: nigropallidal encephalomalacia

Toxicity: pentachlorophenol


Ulnaris lateralis: tenotomy - flexural deformity

Uterus: hydrops/hydroallantois/hydroamnios

Vagina: trauma


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