Some equestrian owners believe donkeys and horses cannot live together due to the lungworm parasite Dictyocaulus arnfieldi, so a leading donkey welfare charity has published some helpful information about the parasite on its website.
The Donkey Sanctuary, based near Sidmouth in Devon, says that despite the risk from lungworm, donkeys, horses and ponies can live together quite safely, provided a regular de-worming programme as advised by your vet is followed.
Ben Hart, the charity’s Donkey Care Training Manager says: “When we hold our training days, it is common to hear people state that donkeys and horses can’t live together because of the risks of lungworm. But the fact is they can.”
Top lungworm facts
- Donkeys are assumed to be the natural host of this parasite.
- Donkeys tolerate even a large infestation of lungworms without apparent signs; whilst it can cause severe coughing in horses and ponies that contract the parasite.
- Lungworm larvae can live on pasture for a considerable length of time, so good pasture management can help reduce infection.
- Faecal sampling is the best way to diagnose lungworm in donkeys.
- Donkeys, horses and ponies can live together quite safely, provided a de-worming programme as advised by your vet is followed.
The charity is also keen to clear up misconceptions about parasite infection levels in donkeys in the UK and has recently presented the results of a study assessing parasite infection levels in donkeys to vets and parasitologists.
Dr Faith Burden, the charity’s Veterinary Projects Manager, says: “It is often quoted that a large percentage (up to 70%) of the UK's donkeys are infected with lungworm. Our study to determine levels of parasite infection in donkeys new to The Donkey Sanctuary, over a four year period, showed that only 4% were infected with lungworm.”
For further advice and support on any aspect of donkey care, you will find guidebooks, fact sheets and friendly help at www.thedonkeysanctuary.org.uk or by calling the welfare and advice team on 01395 578222.
NOTES TO EDITOR
- Burden F. and Trawford A.F. "Donkeys Parasites in the UK; Infection Levels, Treatment Intervals and Anthelmintic Use." Proceedings of the Worldwide Association for the Advancement of Veterinary Parasitology, Calgary, 2009.
- The Complete Book of The Donkey, 2009.
- The Professional Handbook of the Donkey - 4th Edition, 2008.
The Donkey Sanctuary aims to protect donkeys and mules and promote their welfare worldwide. The charity was founded by Dr Elisabeth Svendsen, MBE in 1969 and has taken into its care over 13,600 donkeys in the UK, Ireland and other parts of Europe. It also works in Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Kenya and Mexico to improve donkey welfare with donkey-owning communities through education and veterinary work. The charity relies entirely on donations to continue its vital work worldwide. For further information telephone 01395 578222.