United Kingdom

Hair coat properties of donkeys, mules and horses in a temperate climate

Citation

Britta Osthaus, Leanne Proops, Sarah Long, Nikki Bell, Kristin Hayday, Faith A. Burden. April 2018. Hair coat properties of donkeys, mules and horses in a temperate climate. Equine Veterinary Journal. 50:3. 339-342.

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Publication details
Publication date: 
6 April 2018
Volume: 
50
Issue: 
3
Page numbers: 
339-342
DOI number: 
10.1111/evj.12775
Abstract

Background: There are clear differences between donkeys and horses in their evolutionary history, physiology, behaviour and husbandry needs.
Donkeys are often kept in climates that they are not adapted to and as such may suffer impaired welfare unless protection from the elements is
provided.
Objectives: To compare some of the hair coat properties of donkeys, mules and horses living outside, throughout the year, in the temperate climate of
the UK.
Study design: Longitudinal study.
Methods: Hair samples were taken from 42 animals: 18 donkeys (4 females, 14 males), 16 horses (6 females, 10 males) and eight mules (5 females, 3
males), in March, June, September and December. The weight, length and width of hair were measured, across the four seasons, as indicators of the
hair coat insulation properties.
Results: Donkeys’ hair coats do not significantly differ across the seasons. All three measurements of the insulation properties of the hair samples
indicate that donkeys do not grow a winter coat and that their hair coat was significantly lighter, shorter and thinner than that of horses and mules in
winter. In contrast, the hair coats of horses changed significantly between seasons, growing thicker in winter.
Main limitations: The measurements cover only a limited range of features that contribute to the thermoregulation of an animal. Further research is
needed to assess shelter preferences by behavioural measures, and absolute heat loss via thermoimaging.
Conclusions: Donkeys, and to a lesser extent mules, appear not to be as adapted to colder, wet climates as horses, and may therefore require
additional protection from the elements, such as access to a wind and waterproof shelter, in order for their welfare needs to be met.
First published online 20th October 2017.

Online references

Assessing quality of life and welfare of donkeys in the UK

Citation

Alexandra K. Thiemann, Elena Barrio, Karen Rickards, Anna Harrison. July 2018. Assessing quality of life and welfare of donkeys in the UK. In Practice. 40. 249-257.

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Publication date: 
12 July 2018
Journal: 
In Practice
Volume: 
40
Page numbers: 
249-257
DOI number: 
http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/inp.k2584
Abstract

The role of donkeys in the UK and Europe has changed over the past 40 years, and is still changing – these equids are primarily used as companions, but also for tourism, therapy and increasingly for milk production. When it comes to the end of their lives and issues surrounding equine end-of-life care, a recent study highlighted that many donkey owners rely on their vet to provide them with information on quality of life (QOL) assessment, geriatric care and euthanasia planning. This article aims to assist veterinary surgeons in assessing donkey welfare and helping owners decide how to improve QOL or whether an end-point has been reached and euthanasia is indicated.

Online references

Parasite prevalence in donkeys in the UK

Citation

Elena Barrio, FJ Vasquez, A Muniesa, I de Blas. Parasite prevalence in donkeys in the UK. Presented at VII Congreso AVEE.

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Date presented: 
Friday 9 March 2018
Event name: 
VII Congreso AVEE
Abstract

The Donkey Sanctuary (TDS) is a British charitable organisation based in Sidmouth, Devon, England, which’s mission is to transform the quality of life for donkeys, mules and people worldwide through greater understanding, collaboration and support, and by promoting lasting, mutually life-enhancing relationships. The Donkey Sanctuary was founded in 1969 and registered as a charity in 1973 by Dr Elizabeth Svendsen. TDS has a total of seven farms in the UK including a reception farm for new arrivals where the study is based, a laboratory, pathologist and an specialized hospital. TDS currently looks after around 2.600 animals (in a total estimated UK census of 10.000 animals).
Animals are admitted into a quarantine Farm where they spend a minimun of 6 weeks to assess their health status including full coprological study. Donkey are relinquished or rescued by the charity and arrive from different origins: directly from a private owner, another organitation or hospital or one of the charity’s holding base located in different parts of the country. This animals wopuld have been previosly admitted into those centres and taken there due to biosecirity reasons or becuase transport could be in detriment of their health at that time. Animals that need urgent veterinary treatment would be sent to the closest equine hospital for treatment until consider fit to be transported.
Management of hundreds of animals and their pasture can be challenging from the parasitological point of view, especially if we tend into consideration that the majority of donkeys unlike horses would be asyntomathic despite having high parasite burdens. It is rare for donkeys to show signs such as diaorrhea, weight loss or a poor body condition that are more commonly found in the horse.

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Efficacy of two endectocides (moxidectin and ivermectin)against Strongylus spp. parasites in UK donkeys

Citation
Authors
Presentation details
Date presented: 
Friday 9 March 2018
Event name: 
VII Congreso AVEE
Abstract

The Donkey Sanctuary is a British charitable organisation based in Sidmouth, Devon, England, which’s mission is to transform the quality of life for donkeys, mules and people worldwide through greater understanding, collaboration and support, and by promoting lasting, mutually life-enhancing relationships. The Donkey Sanctuary has a total of seven farms in the UK including a reception farm for new arrivals (quarantine) where the study is based. The relinquished and rescued donkeys by TDS can arrive to the quarantine farm from different origins, for that reason, it is important to follow a health control program on arrival which includes a full coprological exam; this will determine the need of using an specific worming protocol. One of the most prevalent parasites is Strongylus spp. and it is very common to find animals with a moderate egg count who are asymtomathyc. The general recommendation is to treat donkeys with an egg count of 300 to 400 eggs per gram (The two antihelmintics used during the isolation period were two endectocides: moxidectin (Equest, 0,4 mg/Kg) and ivermectin (Eqvalan, 0,2 mg/Kg).

The worming protocol used for those animals that have been considered healthy on arrival and that they did not have received a recent antihelmintic treatment was to recieve an initial treatment with Moxidectin with a quarantine period of 48h without access to pasture. Those animals that have recieved a recent worming treatment( within the last 6 weeks) with ivermectin or moxidectin, they were only treated if the faecal egg count was higher than 50 epg or a different type of parasite was found (for example pulmonary nematodes). No other actions were taken in those animals with Strongylus spp. after the first faecal egg count results if they had been treated with moxidectin, otherwise the previous described protocol had been followed

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Preliminary investigation into relationships between donkey and horse skull morphology and brain morphology

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Date presented: 
Thursday 23 November 2017
Abstract

All horses and donkeys belong to the genus Equus but anatomical and behavioural differences exist among species. Equus caballus displays distinctive conformational attributes among breeds provisionally related to ganglion cell distribution and skull and brain morphology. Equus asinus shows less variation in skull shape, and little is known about brain organisation. The current research compared skull and brain morphology between horses and donkeys. Skulls of Equus caballus, primarily of Standardbred type (N=14) and Equus asinus (N=16), were obtained postmortem. All animals had been humanely euthanised for reasons unrelated to this study. Heads were sectioned sagitally along the midline and photographed for measurement of various skull structures using Image J software. Measurements included: skull index (SI)=zygomatic width*100/skull length; cranial index (CI)=cranial width*100/cranial length; nasal index (NI)=zygomatic width*100/nasal length; cranial profile index (CPI)=rectangular area bordered by an 80mm line from orbital notch and occiput; nasal profile index (NPI)= rectangular area bordered by 80mm line from orbital notch and tip of nasal bone; olfactory lobe area (OLA); OL pitch [angle between hard palate and the OL axis]; brain pitch [angle between longitudinal axis of the cerebral hemispheres and the hard palate]; and whorl location (WL) [distance of OL from the level of the forehead whorl]. A General Linear Model determined the main effect of species with Sidak’s multiple comparisons of species’ differences among the various measurements. Donkeys had shorter heads (cranial lengths) than horses (19.7±2.5 vs 23.6±1.4cm respectively; F1,23=51.49, P<0.0002). Donkeys also had smaller cranial widths (13±3.4cm; F1,17=15.91, P<0.001) and mandibular depths (24±2.6cm; F1,21=13.05, P<0.002) than horses (19±0.8 and 27.2±1.1cm, respectively). There was no species difference in SI, ZI, or NI (P>0.40), but donkeys tended to have a smaller CI than horses (F1,17=3.59, P<0.08). Similarly, donkeys had a smaller CPI than horses (F1,21=7.54, P<0.034), but there was no difference in NPI (F1,21=0.05, P>0.83). Donkeys also had a smaller OLA than horses (1.4±0.3 vs 2.3±1.3cm2 respectively; F1,13=4.96, P<0.05) although there was no difference in brain pitch (F1,23=0.69, P>0.43). The greatest difference was seen in WL, which corresponded to the level of the OL in horses, but was extremely rostral in donkeys (F1,21=24.29, P<0.0001). These results show clear differentiation in skull morphology between horses and donkeys which may be linked to behaviour. This may be useful in validating different approaches in the training and management of horses versus donkeys.

Lay person message: Horses demonstrate specific behaviours which may be associated with skull shape, although nothing is known about this relationship in donkeys. This pilot study has shown that donkeys have smaller brain cases and olfactory lobes than Standardbred horses. Donkeys’ facial whorls are located lower down the face while horses’ are in close proximity to the brain’s olfactory lobe. Clarifying differences between horses and donkeys is crucial to understanding species-specific behavioural responses and providing appropriate management and training practices.

P-glycoproteins play a role in ivermectin resistance in cyathostomins

Citation

Laura Peachey, Gina L. Pinchbeck, Jacqui. B. Matthews, Faith A. Burden, A. Lespine, G. von Samson-Himmelstjerna, J. Krucken, Jane Hodgkinson. October 2017. P-glycoproteins play a role in ivermectin resistance in cyathostomins. International Journal for Parasitology: Drugs and Drug Resistance. 7:3.

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Publication date: 
25 October 2017
Volume: 
7
Issue: 
3
Abstract

Anthelmintic resistance is a global problem that threatens sustainable control of the equine gastrointestinal cyathostomins (Phylum Nematoda; Superfamily Strongyloidea). Of the three novel anthelmintic classes that have reached the veterinary market in the last decade, none are currently licenced in horses, hence current control regimens focus on prolonging the useful lifespan of licenced anthelmintics. This approach would be facilitated by knowledge of the resistance mechanisms to the most widely used anthelmintics, the macrocyclic lactones (ML). There are no data regarding resistance mechanisms to MLs in cyathostomins, although in other parasitic nematodes, the ABC transporters, P-glycoproteins (P-gps), have been implicated in playing an important role. Here, we tested the hypothesis that P-gps are, at least in part, responsible for reduced sensitivity to the ML ivermectin (IVM) in cyathostomins; first, by measuring transcript levels of pgp-9 in IVM resistant versus IVM sensitive third stage larvae (L3) pre-and post-IVM exposure in vitro. We then tested the effect of a range of P-gp inhibitors on the effect of IVM against the same populations of L3 using the in vitro larval development test (LDT) and larval migration inhibition test (LMIT). We demonstrated that, not only was pgp-9 transcription significantly increased in IVM resistant compared to IVM sensitive L3 after anthelmintic exposure (p < 0.001), but inhibition of P-gp activity significantly increased sensitivity of the larvae to IVM in vitro, an effect only observed in the IVM resistant larvae in the LMIT. These data strongly implicate a role for P-gps in IVM resistance in cyathostomins. Importantly, this raises the possibility that P-gp inhibitor-IVM combination treatments might be used in vivo to increase the effectiveness of IVM against cyathostomins in Equidae.

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Endocardial Peripheral Nerve Sheath Tumour with Features of a Benign Schwannoma in a Donkey

Citation

Georgios Paraschou, Alejandro Suarez-Bonnet, Vicky S. Grove, S. L. Priestnall. November 2017. Endocardial Peripheral Nerve Sheath Tumour with Features of a Benign Schwannoma in a Donkey. Journal of Comparative Pathology. 157:4. 280-283.

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Publication details
Publication date: 
1 November 2017
Volume: 
157
Issue: 
4
Page numbers: 
280-283
DOI number: 
10.1016
Abstract

A peripheral nerve sheath tumour, with features of a benign schwannoma and arising from the endocardium of the right ventricle, was found incidentally during routine post-mortem examination of a 28-year-old gelding donkey. Macroscopically, five round to oval, white to grey and red, firm masses, firmly attached to the endocardium were identified. Microscopically, the endocardium and adjacent subendocardium were infiltrated by a variably demarcated, non-encapsulated mesenchymal neoplasm with features of a benign schwannoma, including concurrent presence of Antoni A and Antoni B areas, nuclear palisading, neoplastic cells with enlarged bizarre nuclei (‘ancient change’) and the formation of Verocay-like bodies. Immunohistochemically, the tumour cells were variably strongly positive for expression of S100 and glial fibrillary acidic protein. This is the first cardiac tumour reported in a donkey and is macroscopically, histologically and immunohistochemically similar to endocardial schwannoma occurring in Wistar rats.

This article was published online prior to print.

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Training Compassionate Vets for Calmer Donkeys

Citation
Authors
Presentation details
Date presented: 
Tuesday 3 October 2017
Abstract

INTRODUCTION
Working donkeys and mules often require veterinary intervention for a variety of clinical problems. It is crucial that vets, animal health professionals and other equine professionals have a sound knowledge of donkey and mule behaviour to enable them to assess the animals and provide treatment in a species-accurate, humane and compassionate way.
HANDLING TECHNIQUES AFFECT EQUINE WELFARE
The way in which donkeys and mules are handled can affect their welfare since quality of life is measured not only by physiological factors but also by emotional and affective states (1). Negative interactions can contribute to the development of fearful behavioural responses which can persist for a long time after the interaction takes place. Correct application of behaviour modification techniques can positively develop the human-animal bond and help the animal to remain calm during required veterinary procedures, often meaning that painful methods of restraint are not required. Simple techniques for approaching equines, taking rectal temperatures, using stethoscopes and appropriate restraint can, and should, be used to reduce stress for all aspects of a veterinary examination and treatment.
HUMAN BODY LANGUAGE
Correct approach to an equine patient is vital to minimise stress and to prevent a flight response. Equines are sensitive animals who can detect very subtle body language signals. The body language and behaviour of the veterinary surgeon and animal handler can influence the animal’s behaviour; approach with calm, relaxed body language and allow the animal the opportunity to investigate you.
A relaxed, calm approach:
• Rounded shoulders
• Relaxed muscle tone, gentle movements
• No direct eye contact
• Indirect approach from the animal’s shoulder
• Allowing time for the animal to investigate
PRACTICAL APPLICATION
Using a stethoscope
• Allow the animal the chance to have a look at your equipment
• Introduce the stethoscope to the animal’s body gradually, starting in an area that is not too sensitive
• Stroke or scratch the animal to provide reassurance as you work
Taking a rectal temperature
• Help the animal to relax by approaching steadily from the side
• Scratch the animal along his body and on either side of his tail to encourage relaxation
• Do some gentle lifts of the tail before lifting to insert the thermometer
LESS IS MORE
When considering methods of restraint for veterinary examination consider that often ‘less is more’. Distressed and fearful animals are more likely to display erratic behaviours and become more likely to cause injury to themselves or their handlers (2). If calm, consistent handling is not sufficient to keep an equine calm during examination, and restraint is required, the least invasive and minimally aversive restraint options, such as a head hold or the raising of one leg, should be attempted first.
Ear twitches should not be used on equines; a recent study (3) found a significant increase in sympathetic tone and salivary cortisol levels when an ear twitch is applied and it also led to the development of avoidance behaviour indicating the aversive-ness of this procedure. Equines can become sensitised to aversive events or procedures after very few exposures (4) therefore aversive procedures should be avoided wherever possible and stress experienced during veterinary procedures must be kept to an absolute minimum.

The above was presented as a poster

Donkey skin: the invisible fur trade

Citation
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Presentation details
Date presented: 
Wednesday 26 July 2017
Abstract

Increased levels of personal wealth in China is fuelling demand for luxury products including ejiao, a product made using donkey skin. A traditional medicine, ejiao’s popularity is largely due to its reported ‘anti-aging’ properties. Demand for donkey skins to produce ejiao is conservatively estimated at 4 million per year. This represents a significant proportion of the global donkey population of 44 million. China’s own donkey population has nearly halved in the last 20 years and entrepreneurs are now looking worldwide to satisfy a growing demand.

Despite their essential role in livelihoods and community resilience donkeys are largely invisible in livestock policies, livelihoods and humanitarian projects. It is therefore unsurprising that the emerging trade in skins is also invisible. Donkeys are frequently stolen from owners across Africa and illegally slaughtered in the bush; only the skins are removed and carcasses left to rot. In other areas, donkeys are bought at less than current market value and are transported in inhumane conditions to recently built ‘legal’ slaughterhouses. The invisibility of the legal and illegal markets is compounded by illegitimate export practices and criminal gangs. Due to the lucrative market for skins intensive farms are present in China and are likely to expand to other countries, such rearing creates significant welfare concerns for a species poorly adapted to intensive practices. Even if awareness of this trade improves, in the short term donkey owners are facing donkey prices that have increased up to tenfold within a few years and they are without the means to replace animals they depend on.

This emerging trade is, essentially, a fur trade with animal skins being sourced for human beauty. However while furs are visible, the role of donkey skins in ejiao products is invisible to the end user, mirroring the invisibility of the trade and donkeys themselves.

Equine Cyathostominae can develop to infective third-stage larvae on straw bedding

Citation

Sandy Love, Faith A. Burden, Eoghan McGirr, Louise Gordon, Matthew Denwood. August 2016. Equine Cyathostominae can develop to infective third-stage larvae on straw bedding. Parasites and Vectors.

Authors
Publication details
Publication date: 
31 August 2016
DOI number: 
10.1186/s13071-016-1757-1
Abstract

Background
Domesticated grazing animals including horses and donkeys are frequently housed using deep litter bedding systems, where it is commonly presumed that there is no risk of infection from the nematodes that are associated with grazing at pasture. We use two different approaches to test whether equids could become infected with cyathostomines from the ingestion of deep litter straw bedding.

Methods
Two herbage plot studies were performed in horticultural incubators set up to simulate three straw bedding scenarios and one grass turf positive control. Faeces were placed on 16 plots, and larval recoveries performed on samples of straw/grass substrate over 2- to 3-week periods. Within each incubator, a thermostat was set to maintain an environmental temperature of approximately 10 °C to 20 °C. To provide further validation, 24 samples of straw bedding were collected over an 8-week period from six barns in which a large number of donkeys were housed in a deep litter straw bedding system. These samples were collected from the superficial bedding at 16 sites along a “W” route through each barn.

Results
No infective larvae were recovered from any of the plots containing dry straw. However, infective cyathostomine larvae were first detected on day 8 from plots containing moist straw. In the straw bedding study, cyathostomine larvae were detected in 18 of the 24 samples. Additionally, in the two barns which were sampled serially, the level of larval infectivity generally increased from week to week, except when the straw bedding was removed and replaced.

Conclusions
We have demonstrated that equine cyathostomines can develop to infective larvae on moist straw bedding. It is therefore possible for a horse or donkey bedded in deep litter straw to become infected by ingesting the contaminated straw. This has implications for parasite control in stabled equids and potentially in housed ruminants, and further investigation is required in order to establish the relative infective pressure from pasture versus straw bedding.

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