This is a technical document for vets on best practice techniques for horse1 euthanasia, it is an addendum to the broader paper, FVE/FEEVA End of Life for horses, which covers more ethical aspects of horse euthanasia.
When horses need to be euthanised, there are several matters to consider. A method of euthanasia is only acceptable when its effect is guaranteed. It must cause loss of consciousness before cardiac or respiratory arrest. Loss of consciousness can be achieved through medical suppression or mechanical disruption (captive bolt, free bullet/gunshot).
Secondly, human safety during euthanasia should be addressed because of the potential hazards and unpredictability of the procedure.
Finally, proper disposal of the carcass after euthanasia should be arranged and considered prior to selecting the method of euthanasia.
In general, veterinarians performing euthanasia must assess and attempt to minimise the potential for animal distress due to physical discomfort or surroundings. A horse should be properly identified, and owner consent verified before euthanizing a horse, except in the cases where the welfare of the animal is severely compromised and the owner cannot be contacted. Euthanasia should always be according to applicable law.
Bystanders and horse handlers should always be instructed on safety measures and the course of events before the horse is euthanised.