Our new veterinary hospital at Brookfield Farm has a dedicated dentistry area, and dedicated stocks to facilitate the treatment of donkeys. This means that donkeys like Billy can receive effective treatment quickly in a clean environment.

Being continual grazers and thriving on a diet of highly fibrous and abrasive food, donkeys have developed teeth that are designed to wear constantly. Together, our vets and qualified equine dental technicians ensure that each of our donkeys gets regular, thorough dental examination and treatment to identify problems including sharp edges and overgrown teeth, which can cause donkeys pain and discomfort.

Billy's teeth are inspected
Billy's teeth are inspected.
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Billy's treatment

Billy arrived at the donkey hospital to be seen by our vet Karen Pickering, who has a special interest in equine dentistry. Karen usually works with the other vets or alongside our two equine dental technicians to carry out complex procedures.

Billy needed his lower incisors (front teeth) inspected as he had a fractured tooth. We needed to know if there was any infection present, and whether or not he would have to have the tooth removed or if he might be a candidate for endodontic treatment (a bit like humans having a filling).

After being given a sedative to keep him calm and with his best friend Leo close by, a visual inspection of Billy’s mouth and fractured tooth were carried out, and detailed x-rays were taken. Thankfully for Billy, there wasn’t any infection present and the tooth did not need removing - which meant he would be a candidate for the endodontic treatment in the near future.

Karen and Joao work on Billy's teeth
Karen and Joao took detailed x-rays of Billy's broken incisor.
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At present, the endodontic treatment is not something which can be carried out by the team at the donkey hospital. We have the facilities, but further training in this specialist area is required – something which Karen is very keen to learn. A specialist can be called in to carry out the procedure on Billy and any other donkeys who require it, but this is a skill that the team would like to be able to provide themselves in the future – enabling treatment to happen much quicker and more cost-effectively.

As well as highlighting a knowledge gap and a training need, Billy’s dental examination was also an opportunity to share knowledge and learn. Working alongside Karen was a vet student Georgia, and Joao Rodriguez, welfare assessment lead. Joao is a dental specialist based in Portugal, who was visiting with other colleagues from the European outreach teams. Karen was able to benefit from Joao’s experience, and the pair exchanged helpful tips and advice – such as how to perform x-rays out in the field, compared with taking them within the hospital setting, and also how best to clean and maintain new motorised dental rasps to keep them working well. Joao also showed vet student Georgia how to take incisor x-rays and the correct angles to ensure an accurate picture.

It was so useful being able to work with Joao during Billy’s examination. His helpful little tips from his years of experience will improve my ability to diagnose and treat our donkeys here in the UK.

Karen Pickering, Veterinary Surgeon

Billy recieves a visit from the specialist

Billy has now received his endodontic treatment which was carried out by Chris Pearce, founder of the Equine Dental Clinic in Dorset (EDC), and we’re pleased to say it was a success.

EDC is the UK's first veterinary practice dedicated to equine dentistry, and provides advanced and specialist referral equine dentistry services.

Donkey receiving endodontic treatment
Billy receiving his endodontic treatment.
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Vet Karen Pickering assisted Chris during his visit to Billy.

Karen said: 

“Chris was great at explaining what he was doing and I learnt a lot from him, although it will be a while before we are able to do this ourselves as there is a lot more training and equipment that will be needed. However, it is a wonderful thing to be able to do for the donkeys – treat a problem by filling the tooth and leaving it in place. If you remove a tooth you can get issues in the future with food getting into the gaps left behind which can cause periodontal disease. This can then lead on to problems later in life. It was much better to leave the tooth Billy had in place, especially for such a young donkey!

Billy went straight back to the farm and I saw him yesterday, the tooth is looking good and his grooms are hoping that he may be able to join our rehoming scheme now his teeth are trouble-free”.

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