VET’S DIARY: Everything you need to know about donkeys

The numbers of donkeys registered with the practice has recently increased, writes Rosie Mould.

They are of enormous economic importance in many countries in the world, but here are largely pets or field companions. We now have an increasing number of clients who are interested in showing, riding or driving donkeys.

We used to see donkeys occasionally, but now see them regularly and have had them admitted to our equine clinic for hospitalisation and treatment of difficult conditions.

Available veterinary education on treatment and preventative medicine is much improved recently and we encourage our equine vets to participate in this; we have a lot more information now than we did 10 years ago, thanks largely to the efforts of the Donkey Sanctuary.

Donkeys, much like horses and ponies (and mules and hinnys), need proper foot care and dental care as well as worming plans appropriate to their management.

I recently went to see Arthur. He had lived with his present owner for seven trouble-free years, but had suddenly gone ‘stiff’.

The owner was under the impression that donkeys don’t get laminitis, a very painful condition with inflammation of the feet which leads to severe lameness and if neglected, changes within the structure of the foot which lead to long-term pain and abnormal foot growth.

Sadly, if left too long the changes are irreversible and can mean humane destruction is the only option.

On a brighter note, once treatment had been started with painkillers and rest and foot support, Arthur improved and is well on the road to recovery.

Donkeys are renowned for their stoicism, so their pain response can be very different to horses and ponies, which makes it much harder for their human owners to realise there is a problem, and for their vets to interpret the symptoms.

They tend to become dull rather than showing more dramatic signs like rolling or pawing the ground, which can be an indication of pain in the abdomen. Dullness is hard to spot unless you are observant.

If you would like to find out more, we are hosting an evening at our Alnwick branch at Wagonway Road on Wednesday, January 29, An Evening of Donkeys, where Anna Harrison MRCVS from the Donkey Sanctuary will be speaking.

Anna will talk about general care, including foot trimming, worming advice, feeding and management advice and will be available to answer questions.

The talk will start at 7pm and there will be refreshments and a raffle. If you would like to come along please phone 01670 897597 to register or email equine@al northumbriavets.co.uk

There will also be a representative there from their donkey-rehoming scheme.

So come along and find out everything you might need, and want, to know about donkeys.