ISSN 2398-2977      



Mark Senior


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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


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Humane killer

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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 Practice 17, 462-465.
  • Knottenbelt D C et al (1994) Humane destruction of horses with a mixture of quinalbarbital and cinchocaine. Vet Rec 134, 319-324.
  • 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 4, 154.
  • Oliver D F (1979) Euthanasia of horses. Vet Rec 105, 224 PubMed.

Other sources of information

  • 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. The University of Liverpool. pp 173-186.
  • Farewell - Making the Right Decision. published by the Humane Slaughter Association.
  • Jones B (1996) Equine euthanasia in the competition situation. In: A guide to the management of emergencies at equine competitions. British Veterinary Association/Equine Veterinary Journal, UK.


  • Suppliers of humane killers (UK):
    • Accles and Shelvoke Ltd, PO Box 705, Witton, Birmingham B6 7UP, UK. Tel: +44 (0)1213 443155.
    • S Entwistle (Preston) Ltd, The Cattle Market, Brook Street, Preston PR2 3AH, UK. Tel: +44 (0)1772 718048.

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