2014 was a busy year in the Veterinary Department. As well as all the routine visits to our farms our vets were working hard at the hospital too. There is a lot of care and treatment that can be given to donkeys in situ on the farms but for more involved procedures we often have to admit them to the hospital. This may be just a short stay to take advantage of the equipment we have within the hospital or may be a longer stay if they need more in-depth care for conditions that may be difficult to treat on the farms. And of course we have our purpose-built donkey-size theatre for operations. Last year we operated on 116 donkeys, with over 50 routine castrations, because as you may be aware The Donkey Sanctuary has a no breeding policy. This means every stallion that comes into us needs to be castrated before he can go and join the other donkeys on a farm.
As well as preventing unwanted pregnancies, castration often calms animals down and helps to prevent the stress associated with joining a new group of donkeys, especially if this group contains mares! However the benefits of castration for the donkey are better seen the younger they are castrated. An ideal time to get your donkey castrated is between 6 months to 1 year old when their testicles have descended. The younger donkeys are, the less fat they have around their testicles and the smaller the blood vessels supplying the testicles. One effect this has is to make the surgery (and therefore general anaesthetic time) a lot quicker which places less stress on the donkey. Castrating donkeys at a younger age also decreases the risk of post castration complications which can range from a mild infection necessitating antibiotics to severe haemorrhage or infection meaning another surgery is needed – something we are sure you would agree we would like to avoid at all costs.
Unfortunately The Donkey Sanctuary is still receiving a large number of stallions much older than 1 and so we are trying to promote the message that unless you are using your donkey for breeding, it is much kinder to the donkey to have them castrated sooner rather than later. We also run an advice service for vets and are always happy to talk to vets in practice about the differences between castrating donkeys and horses.