Five years ago the veterinarian had given the horse a year to live. Five years later, he has finally reached his limit. Excellent (the name of the horse) has melanomas. These are round, black tumors that commonly grow in the skin and mostly effect grey horses. In fact, most grey horses over the age of 15 will form melanomas. They occur most commonly near the eyelids, salivary glands, genitals and around the anus. Most of the time these tumors are benign and do not cause trouble.
For Excellent however, his poor prognosis five years ago was because his case was one of the worse that the vet had ever seen. Melanomas covered his genitals and anus, in addition to more on his body, eyelids, and neck. Five years ago it was bad, however, within the past year, the size of the melanomas had doubled. The veterinarian also suspected that the melanomas were growing in his colon. This has caused him to have difficulty evacuating his bowels. Twice in the past week, he needed help to clear his stools.
It is for this reason that Excellent will be euthanized. This is my first experience with a patient who was getting euthanized for preventive reasons. The client does not want to come into the barn and meet the horse in pain due to an impaction colic. Other than his recent difficulty urinating and evacuating, Excellent has been a happy horse, active, enjoying treats, and nickering at you to say hello when you enter the barn.
This is why it is difficult for me. I see a horse who still has the potential to be happy, not a horse who someday might be in pain. When I saw the list of signs I understood, but still part of me disagreed. I’d been taking care of this horse for five years, and it’s difficult to say goodbye.
It seems unfair that Excellent has to deal with this, something that most horses live their whole lives with. He will be euthanized at the veterinary hospital, which is also a university for future veterinarians and vet techs. They want to look at what happened with him and where the melanomas are growing inside. They want to learn from him because he is the worst cases that anyone there has ever seen.
Maybe this makes me feel better, that someone can learn from him. Logic and emotions still battle in my mind. In this field, it’s something I should get used to and ultimately it’s not my decision. In the end, it’s still the best decision for the animal…even if I don’t believe that right now, maybe one day I will.