Staff at The Donkey Sanctuary in Cyprus have welcomed a new arrival – Pip Squeak, a young and very tiny donkey who was in need of our help.

Pip Squeak

Pip Squeak was so small.

A donkey owner who had his own herd of donkeys, inherited Pip Squeak when his previous owners moved away and left him. He had been separated from his mother at three months old - far too early - and although his new owner had done his best to look after Pip Squeak, it was clear that something was not right.

Among the herd of lively young donkeys, Pip Squeak was tiny, extremely thin and stood out like a sore thumb.

With an unhealthy look to his slightly shaggy hair and a strange way of walking, compared to the other fit and healthy donkeys, it was impossible not to see that this little two-year-old gelding was not well at all.

Judy Welsman, European welfare manager said: “When we caught him to check him over, he was even thinner than we first thought – literally skin and bone. Despite now having a caring owner and good food, he just wasn’t growing as he should. Being so small and weak, he found it difficult to get to the straw the donkeys were being fed and his owner was gravely concerned for his future.”

We arranged for a vet to give Pip Squeak an assessment, who agreed that this very malnourished little donkey could not continue in his current state and needed our intervention. His owner agreed to sign him over to our care, and was grateful that we could give Pip Squeak the expert care that he so desperately needed.

Immediate needs

Pip Squeak was transported to our sanctuary. On arrival, he seemed a little confused – there were different donkeys, new sights and smells, and for the first time he had a corral and stable all to himself! Making sure he was OK, we left him to take everything in and begin to adjust to his new surroundings.

Our first challenge to bring Pip Squeak back to good health was to look after his immediate needs – food, water and shelter were not a problem, but keeping him warm during the middle of winter turned out to be harder than anticipated.

Judy said: “Pip Squeak was so small, the donkey rugs we had swamped his tiny body – his measurements between his chest and his tail were less than 1 metre long! As he was so thin, he also needed a thicker rug than we would normally use in Cyprus, so finding one for him became a priority.”

A special order was placed to the UK, and within just days the perfect rugs for Pip Squeak arrived. He wasn’t used to being handled and could be a little tricky to catch. However, taking our time and being very gentle, it didn’t take him long to realise that ‘having your PJs on’ was actually really quite nice. In just a few days of twice-daily rug changes, he no longer needed to be caught or have a head collar on – he came over, stood and waited patiently for it to be done.

Introducing him very slowly to extra feed with added vitamins and minerals, he gradually developed an appetite.

The road to recovery

Our vet carried out various tests to check if there were any underlying health conditions which were causing Pip Squeak’s poor condition. Blood tests showed that he was suffering from anaemia, which we treated and will continue to monitor. No other serious problems were detected during the health checks, which was great news, and enabled us to continue to plan his recovery.

He was now being carefully groomed daily, and taken out for short walks to nibble at the rough Cyprus vegetation and give him some exercise and build up his strength. In less than two weeks his walking had improved tremendously and he began to trot around his corral.

Shortly after he arrived Pip Squeak’s weight was taken at 65 kg - a month later he had put on an amazing 25 kg – almost half his original body weight.

We could see him starting to fill out and his coat was looking much better. Not only was he now cantering around his corral, but he started showing a real interest in everything that was going on.

Pip Squeak still has a way to go but it’s wonderful to see how much he is improving every week and although he’ll never be a typical big Cypriot donkey, he’s proving to have a big heart.