For the purpose of this article the 'geriatric' donkey will be taken as one that has reached the age of 20 years. Many donkeys in the UK live far beyond this somewhat arbitrary age designated for vereran status.
Whereas veterinary clinicians working with developing countries rarely see a donkey over the age of 12 years, in the UK it is quite normal to be presented with a donkey well over 30 years of age. Whilst some exceptional animals manage to live happy and comfortable lives well into their forties, it is useful to remember that the average age of death of donkeys at The Donkey Sanctuary in Sidmouth, Devon, is still 27 years of age (Svendsen, 1997).
This chapter will try to help guide the clinician to recognise and treat the most common problems encountered when dealing with elderly donkeys. Many such conditions are simply those of old age and are similar in many ways to those encountered in any other ageing population of animals.