clinical evidence

Radiological anatomy of the donkey's foot: Objective characterisation of the normal and laminitic donkey foot

Reason for study

Anatomical change within a laminitic foot is of diagnostic and prognostic importance. A lateromedial radiograph represents the current 'gold standard' by which these changes are identified. Detection of anatomical change is dependent upon a priori knowledge of normality and subjective assessment alone may not identify modest change. Normal baseline data is, therefore, needed against which objective comparisons can be made. There is little information regarding the radiological anatomy of the donkey foot, hence an equine model has been widely adopted. However, descriptive accounts suggest fundamental anatomical differences between these 2 species.


To characterise objectively the radiological anatomy of normal donkey feet and define the nature and extent of anatomical change associated with laminitis.


The anatomy of the forefoot was quantified from lateromedial radiographs of 83 normal and 74 laminitic donkeys, using a computer based imaging system. Data were analysed using univariate and bivariate statistical methods.


Baseline data were established that define the radiological characteristics of the anatomy of normal donkey feet. The key hoof, bone and weightbearing stance parameters of lateromedial radiographs have been evaluated. Laminitis was associated with significant rotation and distal displacement of the distal phalanx, increases in integument depth and morphometric change to the distal phalanx (P<0.05).


This study challenges the validity of applying an equine model to the radiological anatomy of donkey feet. Hence, the diagnosis of anatomical change cannot be based on baseline data previously given for the horse and guidelines should be revised accordingly for the donkey.

Potential relevance

This study provides an objective basis for the identification of anatomical change associated with laminitis in donkey feet.

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