Franklin Vets Blog
Donkeys are different from horses and have slightly different health care considerations. However, their basic care needs of a good diet, regular hoof care, dental care, and vaccinations are still the same.
Donkeys require fewer calories to maintain weight than a pony of the same size. Feed your donkey good quality feeding hay, and restrict intake of rich feeds such as haylage or grass. Donkeys are prone to obesity, which is especially dangerous for several reasons. Donkeys are at a high risk of using their excess fat as energy in times of stress. This is problematic because it can lead to fatty liver, and liver and other organ failures. Stressful situations can be as simple as dental disease, paddock movement, or as complicated as another disease process and preventative measures are most effective. A simple blood test available through your veterinarian can help diagnose any problems with your donkey or act as a wellness screen.
Donkeys have slightly different feet than horses. Their hooves are more upright, and they are also more prone to seedy toe (separation of the layers of the hoof). It is important to pick your donkeys’ feet out daily and look for early signs of seedy toe such as a bad smell, or mud/black material packing in abnormal crevices on the bottom of their feet. Seedy toe can cause lameness in donkeys and can lead to chronic changes and hoof abscesses within the hoof if it progresses. Laminitis is also another common cause of lameness in donkeys, especially if they are overweight.
In general, donkeys are more stoic than horses and are more subtle in exhibiting signs of pain. It is important to know your donkey and it’s normal behaviours well. Take note of any changes in behaviour such as dullness, reluctance to move, decreased appetite, etc, and call your vet if you notice any of these signs.
It is also important to manage parasite or worm burdens in your donkey. A faecal egg count through your vet can help determine an individualized deworming plan for your donkey. Good management such as regular poo picking is also helpful in minimizing parasite burdens. If you have any horses paddocked together with or rotating through paddocks with donkeys, there is an additional parasite to be aware of. The donkey lungworm does not cause clinical signs in donkeys but can cause coughing, difficulty breathing, weight loss, and other signs in horses. Lungworm can be identified on faecal egg counts.