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Practice Tip
Euthanasia of horses - alternatives to the bullet
  1. Derek Knottenbelt

    Derek Knottenbelt qualified from Edinburgh in 1970 and after two years in Zimbabwe in government service returned to the UK to private practice, eventually becoming a partner in a mixed practice. After 12 years, he turned to an academic career as lecturer and senior lecturer at the Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Zimbabwe. Since 1989, he has been lecturer in equine medicine at the University of Liverpool. He was awarded a doctorate of veterinary medicine and surgery by the University of Edinburgh in 1990.


EUTHANASIA of horses is probably one of the most demanding procedures a veterinary surgeon is likely to face. There are emotive issues involved which make it akin to the euthanasia of small animals and logistics which make it akin to the euthanasia of farm animals. The safety of personnel in the vicinity is paramount and adequate restraint and facilities are vitally important. Notwithstanding these requisites, veterinary surgeons are bound to find themselves in the position of having to compromise and a working knowledge and experience of different techniques is, therefore, useful. The disposal of carcases is also an important consideration but it should in no way be allowed to take precedence over the welfare of the animal or the skill of the operator. If euthanasia is elective, then arrangements should be made in advance (with a knacker, hunt kennels, etc) for immediate carcase disposal.

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