Reference intervals for biochemical and haematological parameters in mature domestic donkeys (equus asinus) in the UK

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Blood samples were collected over a period of 3 years and 4 months from clinically healthy donkeys being prepared for rehoming from The Donkey Sanctuary. Complete blood counts and biochemical profiles were carried out within 24 hours of sampling.


To revise previously established haematology and serum biochemistry values in adult domestic donkeys in the UK.


Blood samples from 138 donkeys were examined, ranging in age from 4-24 years. Data from 18 haematological and 20 biochemical analytes were analysed using non-parametric statistical testing. Reference interval transferability was calculated showing 15/18 haematological and 14/19 biochemical RIs were transferable between previous donkey RIs and these RIs. Of particular clinical note when comparing the new donkey RI with that reported previously is a narrowing of the RI for triglycerides with the upper limit of the range being 2.8 mmol/l as compared with the previous 4.3 mmol/l. It is very important that veterinarians note this difference as this upper limit of triglycerides is commonly used to determine the risk of a donkey becoming hyperlipaemic.


This study establishes reviewed reference intervals for haematological and biochemical parameters for donkeys. The reference intervals in this study are appropriate for use in non-working, mature donkeys kept in temperate climates and are now used by the diagnostic laboratories of The Donkey Sanctuary UK to aid clinical decision making in their resident animals. These reviewed reference intervals also underpin comments appended to results of blood samples from privately owned donkeys submitted by veterinarians to the diagnostic laboratory of The Donkey Sanctuary. These reference intervals may not be relevant to other donkey populations such as working donkeys in tropical regions. Their extrapolation to animals of extremes of age or in specific physiological states should be undertaken with caution. The lack of transferability noted between study parameters in donkeys and horses highlights the importance of using species-specific reference intervals for clinical assessment of veterinary cases.