Read our guide on how to protect your donkeys from Equine Flu. This virus, also known as Equine influenza, is similar to the Flu virus that affects people. There are reports which suggest that there is a higher mortality rate from the disease in donkeys.

How does the virus spread?

Equine Flu is caused by various strains of the Influenza virus that affect the upper and lower respiratory tract of horses, donkeys and mules. As with the human version, Equine Flu is very contagious. With an incubation period of 1-5 days, it spreads rapidly. The disease is spread by the virus being released into the atmosphere by infected animals, but it is important to note that it can spread over much greater distances than other respiratory infections. It is mainly acquired through inhalation of the virus from ill animals coughing and spluttering. Indirect spread is also possible via feed buckets or grooms, handlers, nurses and vets. There is a suggestion it can also be spread to canines too.

Unlike strangles and some other infections, the virus does not linger nor survive for long outside the donkey or horse.

What are the symptoms?

  • Very high temperature, which lasts for 1-3 days
  • Frequent harsh, dry cough that can last for several weeks
  • Clear, watery nasal discharge that may become thick and yellow or green
  • Enlarged glands under the lower jaw
  • Clear discharge from the eyes and redness around eyes
  • Depression and loss of appetite
  • Filling of the lower limbs.

What can I do to prevent this?

  • Current recommendations, off the back of a recent Equine Influenza outbreak in the UK, are to vaccinate donkeys for Influenza every six months.
  • Find your donkey passport
  • Check the vaccination date
  • Book your donkey's annual Equine Flu inoculation with your vet
  • Put a reminder in your calendar for the next Equine Flu inoculation.

All UK and European donkeys should be issued with an Equine Passport, which will give details of due dates for Equine Flu innoculations.

If you suspect your donkey has Equine Flu, veterinary diagnosis and treatment is essential. Influenza debilitates the animal, leaving an equine susceptible to secondary infections. It may also develop into a more serious respiratory disorder.

Recovery may take several weeks and your donkey may take even longer to return to full health. Prevention is better than cure and donkeys should be vaccinated routinely.

Want to know more?

Information for donkey owners