donkey

Practical tips for anaesthesia of donkeys

Background: Donkeys make up a small but important percentage of patients seen by equine and mixed practices, but, while similar to horses in many respects, they have different management needs. Many of these differences are evident in the anaesthesia setting, and differentiating the treatment of donkeys from ‘small horses’ can lead to better outcomes for patients, owners and practices.

Aim of the article: This article highlights the differences between donkeys and horses with regards to induction and maintenance of anaesthesia and provides practical tips about performing safe anaesthesia of donkeys.

Journal
Volume
43
Issue
9
Start page
519
End page
530
Publication date
Keywords
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Comparisons of commercially available NIRS-based analyte predictions of haylage quality for equid nutrition

Maintaining animal health and performance relies on the availability of an appropriate diet. For herbivores, accurate assessment of forage nutrient quality is critical for appropriate diet formulation and rationing, including potential supplementation. Near-Infrared Reflectance Spectroscopy (NIRS) is a rapid method that is used in place of traditional chemical methodologies (wet chemistry) to predict analyte contents in forage samples. The method relies on scanning a sample with near-infrared light and predicting the analyte content by comparing the reflected spectra to a model which has been developed with samples of known analyte content measured by wet chemistry. The purpose of this study was to examine the accuracy of four NIRS-based methods on haylage from seven farm holdings compared with wet chemistry (the control). We analysed 64 samples for a range of analytes (dry matter (DM), pH, ash, acid detergent fibre expressed inclusive of residual ash (ADF), neutral detergent fibre assayed with a heat stable amylase and expressed inclusive of residual ash (aNDF), crude protein and water-soluble carbohydrate (WSC)) commonly assessed for haylage quality in equid nutrition. We compared results obtained by wet chemistry to corresponding NIRS-based predictions from four commercially available NIRS services. The results revealed large discrepancies amongst all five methods. For DM, average bias (mean±SD) for three reported methods was -15.5±188.4, -10.1±50.4, 12.9±33.8 g/kg respectively and for WSC reporting positive bias from four methods of 26.9±51.3, 24.8±38.2, 26.2±50.1 and 14.5±45.2, g/Kg respectively. The extent of these discrepancies from the wet chemistry also varied by analyte where for example, predictions for DM were more reliable than those for WSC and results demonstrated that predictions obtained by NIRS could result in feeding forage outside of target nutritional values.

Publication date
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Objective assessment of chronic pain in donkeys using the donkey chronic pain scale (DCPS): A scale-construction study

Assessment of chronic pain is very important for monitoring and improving welfare and quality of life in donkeys. Freedom from disease and pain is one of the ‘five freedoms’ underlying animal welfare. The aim of the current study was to develop a pain scale for assessment of chronic pain in donkeys (Donkey Chronic Pain Scale; DCPS), including behavioural and facial expression-related parameters. The scale was applied to 77 donkeys (38 donkeys diagnosed with chronic health problems by means of clinical examination and additional diagnostic procedures and 39 healthy control animals). Animals were assessed twice daily for three consecutive days by two observers that were not masked to the condition of the animals but were unaware of the analgesic treatment regimens. Both composite, facial expression-based and combined DCPS pain scales showed excellent inter-observer reliability (Cronbach’s alpha = 0.98, 0.96 and 0.98 respectively; P < 0.001). Individual composite and facial expression-based pain scores and the resulting combined DCPS showed significant differences between donkeys with chronic conditions and control donkeys at all time points (P < 0.001). A DCPS cut-off of 6 showed good sensitivity and specificity (92% and 82.5% respectively) for presence of a chronic painful condition. Facial expression-related parameters separately showed low sensitivity. In conclusion, it is possible to use a composite pain scale for assessment of chronic pain in donkeys, based on behavioural and facial expression-based parameters. Further studies are needed to validate this pain scale before it can be used in veterinary practice.

Volume
267
Publication date
Research output

Nutritional support of hyperlipaemic donkey

Alexandra K. Thiemann
Presentation date

Simple advice regarding donkey food preferences can assist owners in restoring appetite to donkeys with mild hyperlipaemia. As the disease progresses further intervention with nasogastric tubing, intravenous fluids and total parenteral nutrition may be required. This presentation will cover the support needed and calculations requited to treat hyperlipaemia in a donkey.

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Management of laminitis in the donkey

Alexandra K. Thiemann
Presentation date

Laminitis is seen relatively frequently in first opinion equine practice and affects all breeds of horse, pony and donkey. Studies in the UK of companion donkeys  gives a prevalence that approximately 4% of donkeys suffered a laminitic episode in the preceding 12 months, of which 54% were chronic cases and 46% acute.

While there are many similarities in the diagnosis, management and treatment of laminitis in donkeys and horses, knowledge of the species specific differences will provide better treatment for donkey patients. This presentation will cover how to recognise laminitis in the donkey, and the treatment and management of acute and chronic cases.

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Domesticated equine species and their derived hybrids differ in their fecal microbiota

Background: Compared to horses and ponies, donkeys have increased degradation of dietary fiber. The longer total mean retention time of feed in the donkey gut has been proposed to be the basis of this, because of the increased time available for feed to be acted upon by enzymes and the gut microbiota. However, differences in terms of microbial concentrations and/or community composition in the hindgut may also underpin the increased degradation of fiber in donkeys. Therefore, a study was conducted to assess if differences existed between the fecal microbiota of pony, donkey and hybrids derived from them (i.e. pony × donkey) when fed the same forage diet. 

Results: Fecal community composition of prokaryotes and anaerobic fungi significantly differed between equine types. The relative abundance of two bacterial genera was significantly higher in donkey compared to both pony and pony x donkey: Lachnoclostridium 10 and ‘probable genus 10’ from the Lachnospiraceae family. The relative abundance of Piromyces was significantly lower in donkey compared to pony × donkey, with pony not significantly differing from either of the other equine types. In contrast, the uncultivated genus SK3 was only found in donkey (4 of the 8 animals). The number of anaerobic fungal OTUs was also significantly higher in donkey than in the other two equine types, with no significant differences found between pony and pony × donkey. Equine types did not significantly differ with respect to prokaryotic alpha diversity, fecal dry matter content or fecal concentrations of bacteria, archaea and anaerobic fungi.

Conclusions: Donkey fecal microbiota differed from that of both pony and pony × donkey. These differences related to a higher relative abundance and diversity of taxa with known, or speculated, roles in plant material degradation. These findings are consistent with the previously reported increased fiber degradation in donkeys compared to ponies, and suggest that the hindgut microbiota plays a role. This offers novel opportunities for pony and pony × donkey to extract more energy from dietary fiber via microbial mediated strategies. This could potentially decrease the need for energy dense feeds which are a risk factor for gut-mediated disease.

Volume
2
Issue
8
Publication date

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

Comparison of the socio-economic value and welfare of working donkeys in rural and urban Ethiopia

Donkeys (Equus asinus) are widely used throughout Ethiopia and play essential roles in a variety of everyday and income-generating tasks for the people that use them. The challenges faced by people and their working equids vary across communities and geographic locations. This may have implications for how donkeys are perceived by the people they work for, the roles they fulfil and ultimately their welfare.

Two complementary methodological approaches were used in this study to explore the socio-economic value of donkeys for their owners and the welfare of the donkeys in rural and urban Ethiopia.

Using a questionnaire, donkey owners were asked about their donkeys, their attitudes and beliefs related to donkey use and ownership, and the role donkeys played in their lives.

Animal-based welfare assessments were also conducted on a sample of donkeys from different locations, with the overarching aim of the study to investigate differences in use, beliefs, and donkey welfare between rural and urban locations.

In both rural and urban locations, working donkeys are critical for their owners' income-generating activity and therefore their livelihoods. The work they undertake differs substantially between locations, as does their welfare. Work in each setting presents its own challenges and these are reflected in the behaviour and physical health of the donkeys. Rural donkeys showed more apathetic behaviour, a higher ectoparasite burden and greater evidence of tethering/hobbling. Urban donkeys were more alert and had a wider range of body condition scores.

The findings highlight marked differences in the role and welfare of donkeys between different areas within the same country, demonstrating the importance of understanding the context, both from the perspective of humans and working equids, prior to staging interventions intended to benefit either party.

Journal
Volume
30
Issue
3
Start page
269
End page
277
Publication date
Country

The human-animal relationship and its influence in our culture: the case of donkeys

Donkeys (Equus asinus) face a global crisis. Their health, welfare, and even their local survival are compromised as the demand for their skins increases. Such demand for donkey skins aims to supply the ejiao industry. Ejiao is a traditional remedy made from the collagen of donkey skins. Some people believe it has medicinal properties. It is estimated that the ejiao industry currently requires approximately 4.8 million donkey skins per year. Although the future of the donkeys is still uncertain, we must guarantee a life free from suffering to the animals under our responsibility. The trade of donkey skins also undermines the cultural role of donkeys. Donkeys have developed an essential role in Brazil, especially in the Northeast region of the country, carrying on their backs construction materials, water, and food, and, as a consequence, helping people build cities in the deepest hinterland. The close relationship between people and donkeys affords donkeys a unique place in the local culture. This central importance has been recognized by Brazilian artists throughout history. We have many examples of songs, books, “cordeis” (typical Brazilian literature), poems, documentaries, movies, woodcuts, paintings, and sculptures, created to honor this important actor. Here we describe some examples of this human-donkey relationship, and its influence on our culture.

Volume
58
Publication date
Research output

Donkey skin trade: is it sustainable to slaughter donkeys for their skin?

Donkeys (Equus asinus) face a global crisis. The health, welfare, and even survival of donkeys are being compromised as the demand for their skins increases. It is driven by the production of ejiao, a traditional Chinese remedy believed by some to have medicinal properties. It is estimated that the ejiao industry currently requires approximately 4.8 million donkey skins per year. Since there is no productive chain for donkey skin production outside of China, the activity is extractive and has resulted in the decimation of donkeys. Gestation is 12 months in donkeys, increasing the risk of extinction if such practices are not controlled. In this scenario, the donkeys are collected (purchased for low prices, stolen, and collected from the side of the roads) and are then often transported for long distances, usually without water, food, or rest. The trade, in Brazil, poses significant biosecurity risks, particularly because examinations are rarely conducted and therefore infectious diseases, such as glanders and infectious anemia, remain undetected. Furthermore, in chronic stress situations, the immune system is suppressed, increasing the biosecurity risk, especially because donkeys are a silent carrier of diseases. Rarely there is traceability with animals from different origins being put together in “fake farms”, before being delivered to slaughterhouses. The opportunistic strategy of collecting animals, or buying for low prices, keeping them without access to food and veterinary assistance, is what makes this trade profitable. Our experience in donkey welfare and the global skin trade suggest that it will be enormously challenging and cost-prohibitive to run a trade at the standards required to be considered humane, sustainable, and safe. Although donkeys are being blamed for the involvement in road accidents, it is not an ethical solution to maintain this trade as an alternative. Moreover, the ecological role of donkeys in native ecosystems has not been elucidated, and some studies indicate they could even have a positive effect. Regardless of the future the donkeys will have; we must guarantee a life with the least dignity to the animals under our responsibility.

Volume
58
Publication date
Research output
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