United Kingdom

Fasciola hepatica (liver fluke) infection in a UK donkey causing clinical signs

Abigail Sefton
Alexandra K. Thiemann
Presentation date

IntroductionThis report highlights the need to consider liver fluke as a differential for liver disease in the donkey and the need for correct faecal sampling and treatment.

History and Clinical signs: An 11 year old donkey gelding was referred to investigate ongoing weight loss, elevated liver enzymes, hypoalbuminemia and eosinophilia. The donkey had received treatment for suspected colitis with moxidectin and prednisolone. The feed had been increased and dental correction performed as necessary. A routine strongyle faecal egg count had 0 epg. 1 week prior to referral, the donkey had developed pyrexia and dullness, which responded to Flunixin.

Examination and Diagnostic findings: The donkey was in BCS 2 /5.  T 38, HR 64, RR 20, gut sounds and rectal examination were unremarkable.  A routine oral glucose absorption test was normal.  The only significant finding on ultrasound examination of the abdomen were changes in the liver parenchyma; large numbers of abnormally dilated bile ducts and blood vessels disrupted the liver architecture.  A liver biopsy was not performed due to concerns about the risk of penetrating a vessel.

A full examination of the donkey’s parasite history revealed that there was an episode  of liver fluke (Fasciola hepatica) noted 1 year prior to referral  that had been treated with Triclabendazole at 18mg/kg oral. Subsequent tests had given two negative faecal egg tests for fluke at intervals of 16 and 35 days.

A repeat faecal examination was performed testing for liver fluke, which proved positive at the time of examination. 

Treatment plan:  Treatment was initiated with Closantel orally at 20mg/kg repeated after 8 weeks. A balanced diet supplemented by a vitamin /mineral supplement was provided.

Outcome: Subsequent faecal tests for fluke over the following 1 year have remained negative. Liver values and haematology returned to normal within 15 days. A repeat Ultrasound examination after 3 months showed the vasculature returned to normal size and the parenchyma appeared to be grossly normal. The donkey gained 23 kg in weight over the following 48 days and was scored at  BCS 3/5.

Discussion: Fasciola hepatica (Liver fluke) infection is recognised in horses and donkeys, but few reports detail individual cases. The infection prevalence in UK donkeys based on faecal analysis has been variably stated as 4-8% (Matthews and Burden, 2013), and 9% in a recent study of 596 donkeys (Barrio pers. comm 2019).  Howell et al. 2019 described a sero-prevalance of Fasciola based on a horse specific ELISA at 8.7% in a survey of 183 UK horses.

Clinical signs and liver pathology are usually considered  to be mild.

Fox et al. (2011) describe an increasing infection risk with liver fluke across the UK due to climate change resulting in wetter, warmer weather that encourages the survival and development of the free living stage of the parasite and  intermediate snail host. Equines are at risk if they co graze pastures with ruminants that carry the parasite.

There are no licensed products for treatment of liver fluke in equines and there is reported resistance to some products. After treatment repeat sampling is required and a further flukicide treatment may be needed.

References:

Fox, N.J., White, P.C., McLean, C.J., Marion, G., Evans, A. and Hutchings M.R. (2011) Predicting impacts if climate change on Fasciola hepatica risk PLoSOne Jan 10; 6 (1) 0. e16126 doi.10.1371/journal.pone.0016126.

Howell, A.K., Malalana, F., Beesley, N.J., Hodgkinson, J.E., Rhodes, H., Sekiya, M., Archer, D., Clough, H.E., Gilmore, P., and Williams, D.J.L.( 2019) Fasciola hepatica in UK horses . Equine Vet J. https://doi.org/10.1111/evj.13149

Matthews, J.B. and Burden F.A (2013) Common helminth infections of donkeys and their control in temperate climates.  Equine Vet. Educ 25 (9) 461-467

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Not published as conference proceedings

Electronic instrumentation of a swingletree for equid pull load monitoring: a contribution for the welfare and performance of working donkeys

Equids play a fundamental role in supporting livelihoods in many parts of the world. Being able to access the animal’s welfare, especially while performing tasks that involve high levels of physical effort such as those found in agroforestry activities, is of utmost importance. The Donkey Sanctuary, a UK-based international charitable institution, has designed a project that aims to develop a set of tools to evaluate the working conditions of donkeys and mules worldwide. This requires the measurement of several different parameters, including the force exerted by an animal to pull a load during work. This article presents the stages of design, development and implementation of a device capable of carrying out these measurements with minimal human intervention and with negligible impact on the task operating conditions. Data obtained from real fi eld conditions validates the devised measurement method.

Volume
20
Issue
2
Start page
111
End page
125
Publication date
Research output

Hoof surgery in donkeys – results of 24 cases

Alexandra K. Thiemann
Presentation date

Background: Donkey hooves have differences in anatomy from the horse; hoof disease is a significant cause of lameness and mortality in donkeys. Surgery is required to treat sepsis of P3 and keratomas. There is little published data and no case series in donkey for these conditions.

Objectives: To determine the success of treatment of surgical conditions of the donkey hoof in a population (2500 donkeys) during the study period 13 September 2018 to 18 February 2020.

Study design: Case series.

Methods: A protocol for hoof surgery implemented prior to the study ensured standardisation of data. A retrospective analysis of case records, treatments, and histology was undertaken; results were entered and analysed in a standard Excel spreadsheet.

Results: There were nine cases of septic pedal osteitis, two were euthanased (22%). There were two cases of canker: one was euthanased after two standing surgeries. There were 13 cases with keratoma-like lesions. These contained dyskeratotic keratin and, in 11 cases filamentous micro-organisms. Results of surgical removal compared favourably with case series in horses, there being no mortalities, and all returning to soundness.

Main limitations: The numbers were relatively low, and the donkeys were companion animals, meaning that a direct comparison with an athletic horse population is not possible.

Conclusions: Foot surgery in donkeys carries similar success rates to the horse.

Keywords
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Published as conference proceedings
Publication date
Volume
53
Issue
S55
Research output

Guide to common skin disorders in donkeys

Background: Although they are a minority equine species in the UK, donkeys are both much loved companion animals and conversely frequently neglected and suffer poor welfare. Skin disease is a common complaint and often presents at an advanced state due to a number of factors, including inadequate owner knowledge, infrequent checking and grooming, and a lack of concern for the welfare of the affected donkey, alongside donkey-specific factors, such as a difference in hair coat from horses.

Aim of the article: This article covers the main presenting signs that veterinary surgeons see in donkeys with skin disease, and offers guidance on diagnosis and treatment options.

Journal
Volume
43
Issue
6
Start page
318
End page
327
Publication date
Country

A review of laminitis in the donkey

Laminitis is a commonly occurring, painful condition of the foot that can have a major impact on the welfare of affected donkeys. When faced with a donkey suspected to have laminitis, the approach is broadly similar to that in the horse, however there are certain factors unique to donkeys that this article aims to highlight including: the differences in use, behaviour, anatomy, therapy and management.

Publication date
Country

Suspensory ligament desmitis caused by onchocerca sp. in three donkeys

Three donkeys were presented with progressive lameness and distal suspensory ligament breakdown in multiple limbs. Treatment with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs was only partially effective and eventually the donkeys were euthanized due to further progression of the lameness and concerns for their welfare. At necropsy, the distal part of the suspensory ligaments in multiple limbs, including the suspensory ligament branches, was markedly thickened, enlarged, and mottled white and brown on cut section. In one case, adult Onchocerca sp. nematodes were grossly identified embedded within the suspensory ligaments. Histopathologic examination revealed chronic, multifocal to coalescing, moderate to severe, lymphoplasmacytic, eosinophilic, and fibrosing desmitis and tendinitis with intralesional, coiled adult nematodes of Onchocerca sp., accompanied by osseous and cartilaginous metaplasia. To the authors’ knowledge, this is the first histopathologic description of suspensory ligament desmitis and tendinitis associated with Onchocerca sp. in donkeys.

Volume
58
Issue
2
Start page
401
End page
404
Publication date
Country

Oesophageal obstruction in a donkey due to mediastinal lymphadenitis caused by mycobacterium avium complex

Mycobacterial infections are rare in horses, donkeys and mules. Although there are a few reports in horses, mycobacterial disease is poorly documented in the donkey. Mycobacterial infection of equine species typically affects the alimentary tract, causing granulomatous enterocolitis resulting in diarrhoea and chronic weight loss, while lymph nodes and liver may also be affected. We now document recurrent oesophageal obstruction, secondary to cranial mediastinal lymphadenitis caused by Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC). To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report of MAC infection in a donkey in the UK.

Volume
185
Start page
66
End page
71
Publication date
Country

Endoparasite control for donkeys in the UK

The prevalence of endoparasites, their control and clinical relevance in donkeys can often cause confusion and concern to vets and owners alike. While donkeys can be affected by the same parasite species as horses, infection characteristics, presenting signs and symptoms of disease can differ. Donkeys do not always show obvious signs of disease until it is severe so it is important to know what to look out for when clinically assessing a donkey and how best to diagnose potential infection with parasites. There is a limited selection of anthelmintic products available for use in the donkey, so prescribing using the cascade is sometimes warranted. Careful consideration should be given to the choice and frequency of anthelmintic treatments in order to balance controlling disease with preserving anthelmintic efficacy.

Journal
Volume
5
Issue
2
Start page
84
End page
89
Publication date
Country

Working across Europe to improve donkey welfare

The UK public and veterinary profession often think of the equine charity sector as dealing with issues directly related to the UK equine population - overproduction, rehoming, shelter and welfare. However, The Donkey Sanctuary, like many UK-based equine charities, also works in Europe and further afield to try to address a much broader range of issues.

Volume
1796
Start page
298
End page
300
Publication date
Country
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