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Donkey Care

When it comes to caring for donkeys, it is especially important to remember that they are particularly individual, with requirements very different from those of horses.

Behaviour

  • Donkeys will bond very closely in pairs. This occurs even in the wild, where rather than forming herds, they create small groups. Separation of a bonded pair should be avoided, as the donkeys will find it extremely stressful, to the point where they can even develop a condition called hyperlipaemia, which can have life threatening implications.
  • Reluctance or fear are often misinterpreted as stubbornness as the donkey’s ‘flight’ response is reduced in comparison to horses. Instead of running away, they will often just stand, rock still. In these scenario’s, ensuring the donkey’s companion is present, and involving a skilled handler, may help to motivate them.
  • They are also incredibly stoic; donkeys will hide symptoms of pain and discomfort. For this reason, an unusually dull donkey should be treated as an emergency. 

Hoof care

  • Donkeys feet have structural and anatomical differences compared to horses. The foot is more upright, with a U-shaped appearance. They will require trimming every 6-10 weeks, and if the feet become overgrown, x-rays are recommended to ensure the bony structures are still appropriately positioned within the hoof capsule.
  • Because donkeys have evolved to live in hotter, more arid environments, their feet absorb water more easily. This means they are more likely to develop diseases in the foot including seedy toe and thrush. Like horses they will also develop laminitis and abscesses which will require veterinary attention

Day to day monitoring

  • Monitoring the weight of your donkey can be challenging but keeping a record of their weight can help identify any changes and spot problems should they arise. If your donkey is found to be underweight or overweight, medical causes should be ruled out and dietary changes should be made slowly to avoid complications such as colic or hyperlipaemia.
  • Clinical parameters are similar in donkeys and horses but with slight differences. As with monitoring their weight, it is useful to have an idea of your donkey’s normal heart rate, respiratory rate, and temperature so that changes can be noted early. Normal parameters for donkeys can be found below:

Parameter

Average

Normal Range

Heart Rate

44

36-52

Respiratory Rate

20

12-28

Temperature

37.1C

36.5-37.8C

 

Medical care

  • Donkeys are very susceptible to hyperlipaemia, which can occur secondary to other medical issues, therefore if we are treating your donkey for problems such as colic, laminitis or weight loss we will check their ‘triglyceride’ levels. Increased triglyceride levels indicate the development of hyperlipidaemia or hyperlipaemia which can be life threatening if not treated rapidly and aggressively.
  • Donkeys may require increased quantities of pain medications, or sedative as they metabolise drugs more quickly than horses. Equally, donkey’s furry coats often mean that topical medications- such as for lice, will not work properly. Please talk to your veterinarian about suitable alternatives

Like horses, donkeys will need a regular worming plan. But once yearly, in addition to their normal worming protocol, they will need to be dewormed against lungworm. Healthy donkeys may not develop clinical signs associated with lungworm infection, but in some cases, it will cause severe coughing, and once the parasite is established on a pasture it can be very challenging to eradicate.