donkey

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

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

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

Science and knowledge of free-roaming donkeys - a critical review

The emergence of free-roaming donkey (Equus asinus) populations globally has brought novel challenges for conservationists, land managers, and those concerned about animal welfare. We provide a review of the scientific literature pertaining to the place and role of free-roaming donkeys from 1950 until 2020. Using quantitative and qualitative techniques, namely categorical and thematic analysis and critical discourse analysis, to review >100 articles, we critically examine the logics and rationales that are used to either support or denounce donkey presence in particular landscapes and discuss their place and role in different ecological contexts. Free-roaming donkeys are largely understudied and clouded by dichotomous points of view, different conservation agendas, and the presence of other species in donkey habitat. There is an important need for more in-depth, site-specific studies on free-roaming donkeys that draw on tools and techniques from across the social and natural sciences. Such efforts would offer a richer, more holistic, and comprehensive picture of free-roaming donkeys that consider both human and animal perspectives and the wider environment. This has important implications for generating long-term sustainable management solutions for free-roaming donkeys. © 2021 The Authors. The Journal of Wildlife Management published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of The Wildlife Society.

Publication date
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
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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.

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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
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