When Iou (pronounced eye-yew) arrived at our veterinary clinic in Hawassa, Ethiopia, he was evidently suffering from a combination of exhaustion, injury and hunger. Worked every day transporting heavy goods to market, his handler relied on Iou to keep going so that he and his family could make ends meet. Tragically for Iou and his fellow working donkeys, it is a common local misconception that donkeys neither feel pain nor respond to veterinary treatment.
Iou was examined by our vet Dr Bojia who found that Iou was extremely underweight and had an injury on his front left foot which left him hobbling. He had deep wounds from ill-fitting harness used for his cart and injuries across his back where he had been beaten to make him work faster.
Dr Bojia immediately set about treating Iou, administering pain killers, cleaning his back and applying zinc oxide to help the wounds heal properly. His injured foot was trimmed and treated so that he could begin to bear his own weight.
Crucially, Dr Bojia then spent time speaking with Iou’s handler about the aftercare necessary for Iou to recover, including resting his donkey for at least a week. He asked the owner to apply the zinc oxide and recommended washing the wound twice daily with salt water, allowing the wound to dry and then applying the cream.
The clinics often find that once owners can see for themselves how much more efficient a happy, healthy donkey is, the message about the need for good care, rest and regular veterinary checks quickly spreads.
Our education work is going to be most effective in helping the donkeys of Hawassa. Making simple improvements to the cart that a donkey pulls can almost eradicate the potential for wounds. There are thousands of donkeys here, who deserve our help, and we are helping all that we can. Support is needed to keep funding our project, so that we can develop our cart harness work, community education to promote kindness and care for donkeys, and of course, soothing veterinary treatments for the donkeys.