United Kingdom

Multi-kingdom characterization of the core equine fecal microbiota based on multiple equine (sub)species

Citation

Joan E. Edwards, S. A. Shetty, P. van den Berg, Faith A. Burden, D. A. van Doorm, W. F. Pellikaan, J. Dijkstra, H. Smidt. 12 February 2020. Multi-kingdom characterization of the core equine fecal microbiota based on multiple equine (sub)species. Animal Microbiome. 2:6.

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Publication details
Publication date: 
12 February 2020
Journal: 
Animal Microbiome
Volume: 
2
Issue: 
6
DOI number: 
10.1186/s42523-020-0023-1
Abstract

Background: Equine gut microbiology studies to date have primarily focused on horses and ponies, which represent only one of the eight extant equine species. This is despite asses and mules comprising almost half of the world’s domesticated equines, and donkeys being superior to horses/ponies in their ability to degrade dietary fiber. Limited attention has also been given to commensal anaerobic fungi and archaea even though anaerobic fungi are potent fiber degrading organisms, the activity of which is enhanced by methanogenic archaea. Therefore, the objective of this study was to broaden the current knowledge of bacterial, anaerobic fungal and archaeal diversity of the equine fecal microbiota to multiple species of equines. Core taxa shared by all the equine fecal samples (n = 70) were determined and an overview given of the microbiota across different equine types (horse, donkey, horse × donkey and zebra). Results: Equine type was associated with differences in both fecal microbial concentrations and community composition. Donkey was generally most distinct from the other equine types, with horse and zebra not differing. Despite this, a common bacterial core of eight OTUs (out of 2070) and 16 genus level groupings (out of 231) was found in all the fecal samples. This bacterial core represented a much larger proportion of the equine fecal microbiota than previously reported, primarily due to the detection of predominant core taxa belonging to the phyla Kiritimatiellaeota (formerly Verrucomicrobia subdivision 5) and Spirochaetes. The majority of the core bacterial taxa lack cultured representation. Archaea and anaerobic fungi were present in all animals, however, no core taxon was detected for either despite several taxa being prevalent and predominant. Conclusions: Whilst differences were observed between equine types, a core fecal microbiota existed across all the equines. This core was composed primarily of a few predominant bacterial taxa, the majority of which are novel and lack cultured representation. The lack of microbial cultures representing the predominant taxa needs to be addressed, as their availability is essential to gain fundamental knowledge of the microbial functions that underpin the equine hindgut ecosystem.

Full article available open access.

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Understanding the Attitudes of Communities to the Social, Economic, and Cultural Importance of Working Donkeys in Rural, Peri-urban, and Urban Areas of Ethiopia

Citation

Martha Geiger, Jo Hockenhull, Henry Buller, Gebre Tefera, Mulugeta Getachew, Faith A. Burden, Helen (Becky) Whay. 14 February 2020. Understanding the Attitudes of Communities to the Social, Economic, and Cultural Importance of Working Donkeys in Rural, Peri-urban, and Urban Areas of Ethiopia. Frontiers in Veterinary Science. 7:60.

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Publication date: 
14 February 2020
Volume: 
7
Issue: 
60
DOI number: 
10.3389/fvets.2020.00060
Abstract

Working donkeys (Equus africanus asinus) are vital to the development and support of people's livelihoods in rural, peri-urban, and urban areas of Ethiopia. However, despite their critical role in providing transport, food security, and income generation to some of the poorest and most marginalized households, donkey contributions to human livelihoods have been largely unexplored. Donkey users, veterinary surgeons, business owners, and civil servants were interviewed to investigate the role humans play in shaping donkey lives while furthering our understanding of the social and economic impacts of working donkeys to human lives. Findings are discussed through seven guiding themes; donkeys as generators of income, the relationship between donkeys and social status, donkeys and affect, empowerment through donkeys, the role of donkeys in reducing vulnerability and encouraging resilience, donkey husbandry, and gender dynamics all of which gave a broader and richer insight into the value of donkeys. Donkeys are an important support in rural, peri-urban, and urban settings through the creation of economic security, independence, and participation in local saving schemes. In addition, donkeys provide social status, empowerment to marginalized groups such as women and the very poor and provide a sense of companionship. Whether the interviewee was a donkey user or a key informant appeared to influence their views on donkeys and their welfare, as did their location. The variations in views and practices between urban and rural settings suggests that assessing the socioeconomic value of donkeys in different locations within the same area or country is critical, rather than assuming that similar views are held between compatriots. Despite their centrality to many people's lives in Ethiopia, working donkeys often hold lowly status, are misunderstood, and given little husbandry and healthcare.

Full text available open access.

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Clinical evaluation and preventative care in donkeys

Citation

Elena Barrio, Karen Rickards, Alexandra K. Thiemann. 3 October 2019. Clinical evaluation and preventative care in donkeys. The Veterinary clinics of North America. Equine Practice. 35:3. 545-560.

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Publication details
Publication date: 
3 October 2019
Volume: 
35
Issue: 
3
Page numbers: 
545-560
DOI number: 
10.1016/j.cveq.2019.08.013
Abstract

Clinical evaluation and preventative care in donkeys should follow similar guidelines as for horses. There are species-specific differences due to the desert-adapted physiology of the donkey. Donkeys are mainly used as pack animals, companions and for production of meat or milk - they may be kept well into old age. Diseases often present late or may go unrecognized leading to poor welfare and quality of life. Basic knowledge of nutrition, blood values, pharmacology and common disease recognition will help veterinarians improve the health and welfare of donkeys.

Published online ahead of print.

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Hoof disorders and farriery in the donkey

Citation

Alexandra K. Thiemann, Luke. A. Poore. 3 October 2019. Hoof disorders and farriery in the donkey. The Veterinary clinics of North America. Equine Practice. 35:3. 643-658.

Authors
Publication details
Publication date: 
3 October 2019
Volume: 
35
Issue: 
3
Page numbers: 
643-658
DOI number: 
10.1016/j.cveq.2019.08.012
Abstract

This article provides a review of hoof anatomy and care in donkeys and mules. Hoof disease is a major cause of poor welfare and mortality globally. Problems associated with hoof disease are discussed in the context of behavior, diet, treatment, and prevention. The most common conditions encountered are discussed, including laminitis, the overgrown unbalanced hoof, white line disease, flexural deformities, and other significant issues. Differences between donkey and horse hoof anatomy are described.

Published online ahead of print.

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Respiratory disorders of the donkey

Citation

Karen Rickards, Alexandra K. Thiemann. 3 October 2019. Respiratory disorders of the donkey. The Veterinary clinics of North America. Equine Practice. 35:3. 561-573.

Authors
Publication details
Publication date: 
3 October 2019
Volume: 
35
Issue: 
3
Page numbers: 
561-573
DOI number: 
10.1016/j.cveq.2019.08.009
Abstract

Donkeys suffer from the same respiratory diseases as horses; however, owing to their nonathletic nature many conditions can present in a more advanced state before becoming clinically apparent. Anatomically, their respiratory tract is similar to the horse, with certain species-specific differences that are important to be aware of. Often donkeys do not receive the same level of routine care as horses, so many are not vaccinated against respiratory pathogens such as influenza or herpesviruses. Donkeys can act as a reservoir for certain infectious and parasitic respiratory diseases and the interpretation of diagnostic tests needs to be carried out with caution.

Published online ahead of print.

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Gastrointestinal disorders of donkeys and mules

Citation

Alexandra K. Thiemann, Rebekah Sullivan. 3 October 2019. Gastrointestinal disorders of donkeys and mules. The Veterinary clinics of North America. Equine Practice. 35:3. 419-432.

Authors
Publication details
Publication date: 
3 October 2019
Volume: 
35
Issue: 
3
Page numbers: 
419-432
DOI number: 
10.1016/j.cveq.2019.08.001
Abstract

A review of common gastrointestinal disorders of donkeys and mules is presented. Clinically relevant aspects of donkey behavior, anatomy, and physiology are highlighted. Diagnosis, management, and treatment of conditions affecting the gastrointestinal tract from stomach to rectum, including liver and pancreas, are discussed.

Published online ahead of print.

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Donkey nutrition and malnutrition

Citation

Faith A. Burden, Nicola Bell. 3 October 2019. Donkey nutrition and malnutrition. The Veterinary clinics of North America. Equine Practice. 35:3. 469-479.

Authors
Publication details
Publication date: 
3 October 2019
Volume: 
35
Issue: 
3
Page numbers: 
469-479
DOI number: 
10.1016/j.cveq.2019.08.004
Abstract

The domestic donkey is a unique equid species with specific nutritional requirements. This article examines the importance of feeding strategies that mimic the donkey's natural environment using poor nutritional quality fibers and access to browsing materials. The relationship between nutrition and health is examined and practical approaches to the healthy and sick donkey are discussed.

Published online ahead of print.

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Laminitis in donkeys: a pilot study investigating radiographic versus post-mortem measurements

Citation

Abigail Sefton. 2 September 2019. Laminitis in donkeys: a pilot study investigating radiographic versus post-mortem measurements. Equine Veterinary Journal. 51:S53. 10.

Authors
Publication details
Publication date: 
2 September 2019
Volume: 
51
Issue: 
S53
Page numbers: 
10
DOI number: 
10.1111/evj.10_13152
Abstract

Background:

Laminitis is a painful disease of equines. Radiographic and post-mortem evaluations of feet are often an important part of welfare investigations, and professional opinions by veterinarians are necessary in resulting legal cases. Any difference in measurements between the two modalities can cause uncertainty, potentially affecting
the legal decision.

Objectives:

To quantify the difference between radiographic and postmortem pre-mortem vs. post-mortem effects.

Study design: Case series.

Methods: Seven donkeys with laminitis confirmed via standard workup, euthanased for reasons unrelated to the study, were selected. Weight-bearing and non-weight-bearing lateral radiographs were taken of both front feet within 24 h pre-mortem. Feet were removed and sagitally sectioned between 48 and 72 h post-mortem. Lateral radiographs were taken of the feet immediately following sectioning. Founder distance and rotation were evaluated at each time point and compared using paired t-tests (P < 0.05).

Results:

Compared with pre-mortem weight-bearing radiographs, nonweight-bearing feet had a decreased founder distance and decreased rotation. Compared with pre-mortem non-weight- bearing radiographs, post-mortem feet had increased rotation and no change in founder distance. There were no significant differences between post-mortem direct measurements and post- mortem radiographs. Compared with standard weight-bearing radiographs, post-mortem measurements had a decreased founder distance and increased rotation.

Main limitations: Small sample size. Further samples are needed to confirm these initial conclusions.

Conclusions:

Measurements of post-mortem feet have a decreased founder distance and an increased rotation compared with standard radiographic images. Changes in founder distance are seen due to changes in weight-bearing. Changes in rotation are seen post-mortem, and can be explained by autolysis of the laminae and/or rigor mortis
causing tendon contracture. Most studies have focused on indications and severity of laminitis in living animals using radiographs: postmortem measurements should therefore be interpreted with caution.

Competing interests:

None declared.

Ethical animal research:

Approved by The Donkey Sanctuary.

Donkeys were owned by The Donkey Sanctuary and were used with consent.

Sources of funding:

The Donkey Sanctuary.

Online references

Reproduction and neonatology: breeding, foaling and foal disorders

Citation

Karen Pickering. 14 September 2019. Reproduction and neonatology: breeding, foaling and foal disorders. Presented at British Equine Veterinary Association Congress 2019. (12 September - 14 September 2019). Birmingham, United Kingdom.

Authors
Presentation details
Date presented: 
Saturday 14 September 2019
Abstract

The female donkey is often known as a mare or jenny, the male as a donkey stallion or jack.

Reproductive behaviours
Sexual behaviour is often more exaggerated in the donkey and stallion-like behaviour may persist in the male donkey after castration. It is recommended that, unless being used for breeding, all male donkeys are castrated between 6 and 18 months of age.

Females will start cycling regularly between 10 and 22 months old with a wide variation in oestrus duration of 2–10 days. Seasonality of ovarian activity is variable and likely to be influenced by photoperiod, nutrition and temperature. Older females will tend to show longer interovulatory intervals. Signs of oestrus observed in females include mounting (females will mount each other with the oestrous female on the bottom), mouth clapping, winking (eversion of the clitoris), raising the tail, urinating, posturing (abducted hindlegs, arched tail) and backing up towards the jack. During dioestrus, females will show a lack of interest in the male and will move away or kick if male interest is persistent.

Puberty in the male donkey occurs between 16 and 20 months, with sexual maturity at around 3 years of age; however, males may show mounting behaviours from young foals. Male sexual behaviour differs from horses in that jacks are often slow to achieve erection (10–40 min) [1] and may mount a jenny several times before becoming fully erect. Several periods of sexual interaction are usual, separated by periods where the jack will withdraw away from the jenny. Donkey stallions are territorial and can become very aggressive, especially in the presence of competing males and females in season.

Reproductive anatomy
Donkey reproductive organs are proportionally larger than horse reproductive organs and ligation of the testicular artery is mandatory when castrating donkey stallions [2]. Even slim donkeys can have large amounts of scrotal fat so care should be taken post castration that fat does not prolapse from the surgical site. Castration via the inguinal approach is recommended for large or mature male donkeys over 4 years of age. Donkeys castrated after 18 months of age are more likely to retain stallion-like behaviours.

Testing for anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) has welfare and practical advantages over the hCG stimulation test for diagnosing cryptorchid donkeys. It only requires a single blood sample and following castration, AMH concentrations are undetectable within approximately 2 days, making AMH a useful test if there is any doubt over the success of a recent castration [3].

The jenny’s reproductive organ anatomy is generally similar to that of the horse mare although due to size, rectal examination of miniature donkeys may be challenging. AI techniques are similar to those described in the horse although the anatomy of the cervix, coning towards the caudal end [4], may make manipulation of the cervix for uterine flushing or other techniques requiring access to the uterine cavity during
dioestrus difficult.

Pregnancy
Owner education is essential as many donkey owners are often inexperienced, unprepared or unaware that their donkey is in foal. Gestation is longer and has greater variability than horses and ponies; ranging from 11 to 14.5 months. The incidence of twin foaling at full gestation is reportedly higher than in horses and ponies.

Pregnancy diagnosis can include transrectal ultrasound; optimal time for early diagnosis is 14 days post ovulation, transrectal palpation from day 40 [2] and oestrone sulfate
testing from day 120.

Pregnant females should be vaccinated following recommended equine guidelines, and prior to foaling, parasite prevention should be put into place including appropriate pasture management during and after pregnancy. Body condition should be regularly assessed and feed adjusted appropriately. Pregnancy and lactation are risk factors for
hyperlipaemia.

Electrolyte levels in the mammary secretions can be used to predict foaling. A sodium:potassium ratio of <1 is indicative of foaling occurring in the next 24–48 h [2]. Calcium levels are less reliable but can also be used.

Jennies have a higher tendency to exhibit foal heat than horses and ponies, with higher pregnancy rates [2].

Foal management
The incidence of failure of passive transfer ranges from 3 to 40% [5]. Risk factors are similar to those found in the horse and the IgG level considered normal in horse foals is used. There is a problem with recognition of prematurity or dysmaturity when compared with horses. In horses, the covering date is usually known and the gestation period
is more defined. In donkeys, especially in miniatures, the variation in gestation length can make it very hard to define a premature donkey foal [4]. Despite their thick fluffy coat (appearance of warmth and hardiness compared to the horse foal), donkey foals are not very hardy and require warmth and suitable shelter [5].

References
1. Purdy, S. (2019) Small herd behaviour in domestic donkeys. Equine Vet. Educ. 31, 199-202.
2. The Donkey Sanctuary (2018) The Reproductive System. In: The Clinical Companion of the Donkey, 1st edn., Matador, Leicestershire, pp 73-86.
3. Matthews, N., Taylor, T., Blanchard South, V.E.N. and Durham, A.E. (2017) Use of Anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) for the diagnosis of cryptorchidism in donkeys. ECEIM Congress 2016 Abstracts. J. Vet. Intern. Med. 31, 604-618.
4. Matthews, N., Taylor, T. and Blanchard, T. (2003) An overview of reproduction in donkeys. International Animal Health News: A publication of Christian Veterinary Mission 18.
5. Aronoff, N. (2010) The donkey neonate. In: Veterinary Care of Donkeys, Eds: N.S. Matthews and T.S. Taylor, International Veterinary information Service, Ithaca NY (www.ivis.org). Last updated 29-Mar 2010.

The geriatric donkey: quality of life, pain management, chronic diseases, quality of life

Citation

Rebekah Sullivan. 14 September 2019. The geriatric donkey: quality of life, pain management, chronic diseases, quality of life. Presented at British Equine Veterinary Association Congress 2019. (12 September - 14 September 2019). Birmingham, United Kingdom.

Authors
Presentation details
Date presented: 
Saturday 14 September 2019
Abstract

Any donkey of 20 years of age or older is considered to be geriatric. While companion animals will form the mainstay of geriatric donkey patients, it is not uncommon to experience aged working donkeys overseas and the following comments may be equally applicable.

Conditions of geriatric donkeys are frequently overlooked not receive regular, thorough inspection. Veterinarians may be called upon in an emergency situation, or, ideally, annual veterinary checks may be in place as part of routine vaccination protocols. It is important that any associated paraprofessionals are also aware of care of the geriatric donkey, as farriers and dental technicians can play a vital role in alerting owners to any potential health problems.

Stoic in nature, the donkey’s inherent behavioural response is to avoid displaying pain, thus the true extent of a pathological condition may be easily missed; it is vital that a thorough clinical examination of the whole donkey takes place at every veterinary visit. Beneath the thick coat may lie an underweight or obese animal, or advanced skin disease. Respiratory and musculoskeletal conditions of the non-athletic donkey may not be apparent at rest until an advanced stage has been reached. Research from The Donkey Sanctuary has identified a high proportion of advanced dental disease and poor to no routine dental care in relinquished geriatric donkeys (unpublished data). Heavy endo- and ectoparasite burdens have been seen in geriatric donkeys at The Donkey Sanctuary.

Chronic laminitis is highly prevalent but frequently overlooked by owners. Classic weight shifting is less reported in donkeys, with subtle changes in gait the more frequent indicator; depressed demeanour, muscle wastage over the shoulders and a reluctance to walk, alongside external hoof changes, should all trigger a check for laminitis. Hoof radiography is strongly advised to aid diagnosis and assist with remedial farriery.

Testing for pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID) is advised in cases of chronic laminitis, particularly where changes in demeanour, muscle wastage, recurrent infections and high faecal worm egg counts are seen. The classic hirsutism and hyperhidrosis seen in horses is not commonly identified in the donkey. Presently, measurement of basal adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) is advised as a diagnostic test. Use of the thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) stimulation test may be advisable in equivocal cases, although donkey-specific reference ranges have not been validated. If PPID is diagnosed, therapeutic management with pergolide mesylate at standard equine doses is valid, although owners should be cautioned as to the potential for inappetence and secondary hyperlipaemia.

Osteoarthritis of the axial and appendicular skeleton is very common. Owners may notice little more than a reduction in ambulation of the donkey and deterioration in temperament on handling. An onset of reluctance to raise the limb for foot care may indicate pain of the limb joints. Farriers should be advised to keep the limb as low as possible during foot trimming sessions. A donkey that rarely lies down or rolls or has sores over the carpi or hocks is also a cause for concern. Management of the arthritic patient should involve careful weight control, access to flat pastures where possible, routine farriery, consideration of appropriate bedding material, and adequate analgesia. Appropriate analgesics include phenylbutazone 2.2 mg/kg bwt orally twice a day or carprofen 0.7–1.3 mg/kg bwt orally once a day. Firocoxib has been used, but to this author’s knowledge there are no published data relating to its use in donkeys. Paracetamol 20 mg/kg bwt orally twice a day has been used as short-term adjunctive analgesia in acute-on-chronic presentations of both osteoarthritis and laminitis. While gastric ulceration has been seen at postmortem examination, there have been no studies linking its occurrence with long-term NSAID administration in donkeys.

Weight loss is a common presentation of the geriatric donkey. Diagnostic work-up should follow the same principles as for other equines. Liver disease appears to be relatively prevalent in the geriatric weight loss case, with liver fibrosis not infrequently seen at post-mortem examination. A thorough dental examination is paramount in weight loss
cases; significant and painful dental disease is often identified.

Conversely, obese geriatric companion donkeys are also frequently seen and pose a particular hyperlipaemia risk. The diet of the geriatric donkey should be adjusted to account for desired weight, seasonality, underlying health concerns and dental disease. Short-chop forage products may replace straw for donkeys with poor dental function. Poor dental function and failure to provide access to warm drinking water in colder months have been significantly associated with an increased incidence of impaction colic in geriatric donkeys [1]. Balancer products should be fed to reduce vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

Ocular lesions are often identified during routine clinical examinations of the geriatric donkey. Advanced cases of uveitis, non-ulcerative keratitis and glaucoma may be present despite little indication of pain, while cataract formation is seen regularly. Ocular conditions should be treated and monitored as for other equines, with particular emphasis to owners on the subtle clinical signs of pain in the donkey.

Interstitial pulmonary fibrosis appears relatively prevalent amongst geriatric donkeys presenting with respiratory disease. Disease is rarely recognised until advanced, and/or secondary bacterial pneumonia has increased the severity of clinical signs. The disease is invariably fatal, although over wideranging time periods. Ultrasonographic imaging and thoracic radiography can aid the diagnosis where the clinical signs raise suspicion of disease. Equine herpesvirus-5 has been isolated from bronchoalveolar lavage samples taken from donkeys with confirmed pulmonary fibrosis, and asinine herpes viruses have been detected in donkeys with interstitial pneumonia; however, the precise role of herpesviruses in donkey pulmonary fibrosis has not been definitively established [2,3].

Tracheal collapse has been identified in a high number of geriatric donkeys at post-mortem examination, such that age-related degeneration of the tracheal rings is thought to be common. Clinical signs are rarely seen unless advanced stenosis is present; the presence of concurrent respiratory disease may severely exacerbate clinical signs [4].

Quality of life assessments can play a vital role in monitoring geriatric donkeys with chronic conditions. Informal discussions will likely form a mainstay of regular consultations, while more formal recording sheets can assist owners to identify any decline in their donkey’s condition or highlight issues in the case of working donkeys. Template recording sheets can be found at https://www.thedonkeysanctuary.org.uk/sites/uk/
files/2018-10/record-of-assessment-for-quality-of-life.pdf

Discussing and defining ‘end-of-life’ points is a critical part of this process. Awareness of pain scoring systems, including facial pain recognition scales, can provide useful information relating to the efficacy of analgesia and true severity of any chronic disease processes. Euthanasia of the donkey follows the same basic principles as for other equines. In the UK, Somulose® is the most commonly employed agent. It is essential to have a calm and experienced handler to assist with euthanasia. Due to the small size of the average donkey found in the UK, i.v. agents are frequently given off the needle, but use of an i.v. catheter is down to personal preference. Certain anatomical differences,
namely, thicker skin and a prominent cutaneous colli muscle, can make jugular venepuncture more difficult than in horses. It is vital that any companion is allowed access to the deceased donkey until they lose interest in the body; this can take from minutes to hours. Owners should be advised to monitor closely the companion, as bereavement stress has been known to elicit hyperlipaemia.

Further information can be found in The Clinical Companion of the Donkey [5].
References
1. Cox, R., Proudman, C.J., Trawford, A.F. and Burden, F. (2007) Epidemiology of
impaction colic in donkeys in the UK. BMC Vet. Res. 3, 1-11.
2. Kleiboeker, S.B, Schommer, S.K, Johnson, P.J., Ehlers, B, Turnquist, S.E.,
Boucher, M. and Kreeger, J.M. (2002) Association of two newly recognized
herpesviruses with interstitial pneumonia in donkeys (Equus asinus). J. Vet.
Diagn. Invest. 14, 273-280.
3. Thiemann, A.K. (2012) Respiratory disease in the donkey. Equine Vet. J. 24,
469-478.
4. Powell, R.J., Du Toit, N., Burden, F.A. and Dixon, P.M. (2010) Morphological study
of tracheal shape in donkeys with and without tracheal obstruction. Equine Vet.
J. 42, 136-141.
5. Evans, L. and Crane, M. (2018) Euthanasia and the post-mortem examination.
In: Clinical Companion of the Donkey 1st edn, Troubador Publishing Ltd,
Leicestershire. p 196.

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