A donkey who was living in pain with a large crack in his misshapen, overgrown hoof now has a spring in his step thanks to our intervention.

Josh's hooves were in poor condition

Josh's feet were causing him discomfort.

The plight of eighteen-year-old Josh was brought to our attention during the COVID-19 lockdown in April 2020.

When Donkey Welfare Adviser Sally Bamforth examined Josh at a site near the Scottish border, it was immediately apparent that his hooves were in a very poor state.

She says: “Josh’s feet were overgrown and misshapen, which was causing him considerable discomfort. His front left hoof had a big crack down the front. If left untreated, the hoof could have been susceptible to infection. 

“X-rays revealed changes to Josh’s hooves caused by laminitis (a painful foot condition), which would have caused him significant discomfort. One of the benefits of using a qualified and suitably experienced farrier is that they would pick up on any conditions and treatment needed, as well as being a great source of advice.”

Josh’s companion, an elderly mare named Lucky, was also found with severely overgrown and misshapen hooves. 

We often work collaboratively with other agencies, and, on this occasion, an RSPCA inspector accompanied Sally. 

The team on the ground called a veterinary surgeon to examine the donkeys, who gave them pain relief. Sadly the damage to Lucky’s hooves was too extensive. The vet advised that her prognosis was poor and attempting treatment would not be in her best interests. The kindest decision was to put her to sleep on site. 

Sally says: “Lucky was thin, and both of her front feet were extremely overgrown and misshapen. She seemed sore on her feet and was reluctant to walk. Her head was hanging low, and her demeanour was dull. 

“Despite the pain relief Lucky showed no sign of improvement. Her X-rays revealed chronic laminitic changes.” 

We discussed the donkeys’ condition with the owner, who agreed that the best course of action was to euthanise Lucky and relinquish Josh into our care. 

The team transported Josh to a local holding base for further treatment. 

Thanks to the expert farrier attention he received, the condition of his hooves has greatly improved. When Josh arrived at the holding base, his carers spent lots of time with him and looked out for any changes in behaviour. 

Our focus was to support him as he adapted to his new surroundings and the loss of his companion. 

We kept a close eye on him and watched out for signs of hyperlipaemia, such as a dull appearance or reduced appetite, which the stress of losing a companion can cause. 

We then introduced Josh to a group of donkeys of similar age and temperament, and he soon settled very quickly. 

Josh has since moved to our New Arrivals Unit in Sidmouth, Devon, where we continue to provide the care and attention he needs as he enters the next chapter of his journey.

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