Donkeys have distinct variations from the horse and every owner should be aware of these differences. The majority of these variations are due to the donkey’s ancestral roots of being adapted to a dry and arid desert environment.
1. Stress/Pain – Donkeys do not exhibit the same signs of pain as horses. They tend to appear much more stoic and resilient which means owners must be very observant to realise there is a problem. A “dull donkey” or one that is “off its feed” is a veterinary EMERGENCY and owners must seek immediate veterinary attention.
Donkeys also form a very strong “pair bond” and separating a bonded pair can lead to a high level of stress. Hyperlipemia is a complex metabolic disturbance that donkeys are prone to. It is triggered by “stress” and commonly seen in donkeys who have been “off their feed”. The mortality rate is unfortunately very high (49%). Early recognition of any change in demeanour and appetite is extremely important.
2. Temperature – Donkeys have a lower body temperature compared to horses. The normal body temperature range for a donkey is between 36.2 – 37.8 C.
3. Hooves – The hooves of donkeys are visibly different to those of horses. Their feet are approximately 5-10 degrees more upright, have a “boxier” appearance and the sole tends to be “u-shaped”. They also have a more open tubule structure allowing moisture in the environment to be drawn into the hoof. Remember, donkeys have adapted to live in very dry climates -this means that if they are kept in wet, waterlogged conditions, they will be prone to white line disease and abscess formation. There are also a number of radiographic differences which must be taken into account by a knowledgable vet when examining an X-ray of a donkey’s hoof.
4. Parasites – Unlike horses, who develop an immunity to ascarids by the time they are 1-2yo, donkeys of all ages are susceptible to the effects of roundworm and may act as a significant reservoir for infection to their paddock-mates. Dewormers are rarely licensed for use in donkeys, however, parasite control still centres around regular fecal egg counts and strategic deworming.
5. Nutrition – donkeys have evolved to be highly efficient at digesting low nutritional value fibre. Overweight donkeys or those which have 24/7 access to lush pasture are at risk for developing laminitis and hyperlipemia. The basic rules : feed according to body condition, ensure your donkey receives a dental exam at least once a year, low sugar hay is an excellent source of roughage for donkeys.
***REMEMBER : A “dull donkey” or one that is “off its feed” is a veterinary EMERGENCY and owners must seek immediate veterinary attention***
If you have any questions about your donkey, please do not hesitate to contact us on 0427 072 095.