During these challenging times, team work is as important as it’s ever been to ensure our donkeys and mules receive the highest level of care.

For 18-year-old Jonty the donkey, an urgent dental extraction was called for to alleviate discomfort due to the displacement of one of his molar teeth, requiring staff from different departments to work together to provide the best care.

Teeth in donkeys are rasped every year (in normal circumstances), as they erupt continuously during their lifetime. Without rasping, the teeth would develop sharp points that damage the soft tissues within the mouth. Rasping teeth is a non-painful procedure that is performed as a routine treatment in all the equine species (hypsodont teeth), and must only be carried out by a veterinary surgeon or qualified equine dental technician (EDT).

When teeth are displaced, like in Jonty’s case, they tend to overgrow quickly as they do not have an opposite one to wear them down. Despite more regular rasping for Jonty, in order to conservatively manage the overgrowth, it was no longer appropriate. The tooth had severely displaced laterally and the painful ulcer on the inside of his cheek could no longer be managed. As a result, the decision was made to remove the affected tooth to improve his quality of life.

Improvised surgery to reduce donkey stress

Donkeys in our care would usually be transported to our donkey hospital near Honiton, but as Jonty also suffers from chronic uveitis and keratitis, resulting in severe sight impairment, it was decided that treatment should take place in his barn at the Sidmouth sanctuary, reducing the stress the journey might bring. Under the direction of the vet department, the team at Slade House Farm in Sidmouth improvised a surgical room in an environment he was comfortable in.

Veterinary surgeon Jesus Buil performed the extraction with veterinary nurse Dominique Doyle, and as the pair are partners, they were able to work in close proximity to one another throughout the operation, ensuring Jonty received the best care possible.

Jesus explains: “We knew it would not be an easy procedure considering the location and degree of displacement of the tooth, so we decided to perform it in his barn to avoid further stress.”

Dominique helped Jonty settle before placing an intravenous catheter and under the direction of the vet, sedated Jonty and assisted in maintaining a standing sedation for the duration of the procedure.

Jesus continues: “Once Jonty was suitably sedated, I performed a mandibular nerve block to ensure Jonty could not feel any pain during the procedure. I was then able to extract the tooth using the dental equipment brought from the hospital”

During the procedure, the Dominique carefully monitored Jonty’s sedation level, fluid rate and vital parameters. Jonty responded well to his standing sedation and an hour and forty-five minutes later, the tooth was removed successfully and in one piece. Once he had recovered suitably, Jonty was able to return to his barn, where he could join his friends.

Jonty has recovered well, and although he will need regular veterinary check-ups until the tooth socket has completely healed, he is no longer in any pain or discomfort. His quality of life has hugely improved thanks to the collaboration of sanctuary staff and the veterinary department.