While much good donkey husbandry is founded on traditional knowledge and practices, this is not always the case. Some traditional treatments can do more harm than good, and one is the practice of ‘firing’ or burning with a hot iron (this was also used in the UK until very recently). During a routine Monday visit to the village of Oussem the mobile team met a farmer called Mohamed whose donkey had become a casualty of firing.
Mohamed, who is over 60 and has trouble walking, had recently bought a new male donkey to help him get around and carry food for his other livestock. But the donkey was weak and often stumbled when carrying loads. Unfortunately a neighbour, who also owned a donkey, advised Mohamed to try to improve matters by firing his donkey’s back. This caused severe pain and distress to the 15 year old donkey, and by the time our vet Shaaban Fayez saw him, he was in a poor condition.
“The firing wound had a very bad smell, it discharged pus and was infected deep into the muscle,” he said. “The donkey was depressed but also restless due to the irritation from flies to the wound, he was trying to relieve this irritation by scratching himself on a sharp object which led to bleeding. He was also suffering from acute tendonitis and overgrown hooves. He was feverish, his pulse rate was high due to the infected wound and he was under severe stress from the pain and the irritation of the flies.”
The donkey was sedated and Shaaban cleaned the infected wound and removed the dead tissue, before dressing the wound. Anti-inflammatory and anti-tetanus treatments were also administered. The donkey’s hooves were trimmed and the owner was told that the poor condition of his feet, along with overloading, had been the cause of the weakness and stumbling. Mohamed was advised to give his donkey plenty of rest. Shaaban also explained the harm the firing had caused to the donkey, and urged Mohamed not to resort to this particular traditional treatment again.
It emerged that Mohamed was an ideal person to receive this advice, because he is well known in the village and seen as a wise man. “It was a good opportunity for me to raise his awareness about the welfare of his donkey, to be like an ambassador for donkey welfare,” said Shaaban.
“The owner admired The Donkey Sanctuary for treating his donkey, he also noticed great improvement, he was happy because we give some responsibility about spreading the welfare of the donkey for him. He said, ‘Thank you for Donkey Sanctuary, I never imagined there will be a place like this, God bless your merciful hearts’.”