Clinical dental examinations of 357 donkeys in the UK. Part 2: epidemiological studies on the potential relationships between different dental disorders, and between dental disease and systemic disorders

Dental disease has been shown to be a risk factor for weight loss and colic in horses. No extensive clinical studies in donkeys have investigated the potential relationship between different dental disorders, or between dental disease and systemic disorders.


To determine possible associations between dental disease and body condition score, weight loss, the need for supplemental feeding and prevalence of colic in donkeys of all ages, and to gain a better understanding of the pathogenesis of dental disease by the determination of associations between different dental disorders.


A prospective cross-sectional analysis of clinical dental examinations of 357 donkeys in The Donkey Sanctuary, Sidmouth was performed. Other epidemiological factors such as estimated age group, body condition score, weight loss, medical history and supplemental feeding were also recorded, and multiple regression analyses were performed to determine possible associations.


Donkeys from older age groups were more likely to have dental disease, poor body condition score and suffered previous colic episodes. The presence of dental disease was also significantly associated with weight loss, colic, low body condition score and the need for supplemental feeding. The presence of diastemata, periodontal disease, wave mouth, smooth mouth and step mouth are frequently associated with the presence of other dental disorders.


In addition to oral-related pain, dental disease can cause significant systemic disorders and so has increased welfare implications in donkeys. Some dental disorders promote the development of other types of dental abnormalities and thus increase the severity of dental disease in individual animals.

Potential significance

Effective treatment of dental disorders slows down the progression of dental disease and decreases the risk of developing some medical disorders such as colic and weight loss that are associated with dental disease.

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