For nearly a year, local police and animal control personnel in a small northern Colorado town had fielded concerns about the health status of a horse named Kitten before calling in a CHS investigator for a consultation. Although three other horses on the property were in good shape, Kitten, a 26-year-old sorrel gelding, had a body condition score of 1—the lowest possible rating—as well as severe arthritis, which caused mobility problems and considerable swelling in his knees.
Kitten’s elderly owner said she’d had the horse since he was a foal and was doing everything possible to care for him, including giving him pain medication and plenty of food. The investigator determined that the owner was feeding the appropriate type of food, just not enough of it. He suggested increasing the portions and recommended that she ask her veterinarian about a more specialized feeding regimen if the horse didn’t gain weight.
A follow-up visit revealed that Kitten had gained a minimal amount and still seemed to be in pain; as he shuffled along, loud clicking and popping accompanied his every step. The owner admitted that she did not give pain medication every day but said her veterinarian had approved the food plan. The investigator told her he would follow up with the veterinarian to see if an exam was recommended. The investigator asked her if she had considered euthanasia because of the horse’s condition.
According to the veterinarian, he had not seen the horse in several months, nor had he consulted with the owner since the CHS visits had begun. When he was apprised of the horse’s current condition, he noted that the prognosis was very poor and that the humane course of action was euthanasia. Later that day, he reported that the owner had contacted the clinic to schedule a euthanasia visit, telling the doctor that Kitten had told her that very morning it was time for him to go. Five weeks after the initial visit, with CHS’s patient counsel, the owner had finally made the responsible decision for her horse.