During this current severe winter weather with temperatures well below freezing and much snow and ice, it is important that donkeys are provided with a well bedded shelter, guarded against the chilling wind. Wet snow can melt down into a donkey's coat, soaking the hair and causing the animal to chill and frosty conditions underfoot could increase the risk of laminitis (a very painful foot condition).
Healthy donkeys are unlikely to need a rug, however if they are old or sick and more susceptible to the cold it could be beneficial. All rugs should be seam free and lightweight and fit snugly but not restrict or prevent movement. We recommend rugs are removed daily and the donkey’s coat brushed before the rug is replaced.
Donkeys should always have access to a clean water supply, so check that troughs are accessible and not frozen. A well-drained, clean exercise area and clean, dry bedding is essential and check your donkey regularly for any changes in bodyweight. Donkeys require a diet low in protein, low in sugar and low in starch but high in fibre and for this reason the basis of their diet is barley straw all year round with a restricted amount of grass. In winter, grass may need to be supplemented with small amounts of hay and fed little and often, as donkeys are trickle feeders. In special circumstances donkeys may require supplementary feeding, in such cases we would recommend feeding high fibre, laminitic safe products, further advice can be found in our factsheets or by contacting us.
If you are at all concerned about your donkey during the big freeze, advice and support is provided by calling our advice line on 01395 578222. The Donkey Sanctuary has a team of Welfare Officers throughout the UK who provide help to donkey owners and run donkey care workshops nationwide.
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