United Kingdom

Care of the juvenile donkey

Citation

Alexandra K. Thiemann. 14 September 2019. Care of the juvenile donkey. Presented at British Equine Veterinary Association Congress 2019.

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Date presented: 
Saturday 14 September 2019
Abstract

Nutrition
A donkey foal should be weaned gradually from 6 months of age and able to graze and eat supplementary straw feed. Barley straw is the forage of choice for healthy donkeys with good dentition, as it is low in calorie content while high in fibre, which aids slow digestion and reduces the risk of gastric ulceration. Straw can also be supplemented with hay in cold weather or if extra energy is required. If excess calories are provided to young donkeys, there is a risk of development of orthopaedic conditions including flexor tendon contractures leading to club foot. To balance the high-fibre diet, a low-calorie vitamin/mineral balancer ration is needed until the foal is at least 2 years old or up to 3 years in the larger breeds of donkey. Top Spec provide a donkey specific forage balancer that is appropriate for young donkeys.

Donkeys have lower nutritional requirements compared with horses. Aim to feed 1.3–1.7% of bodyweight in dry matter, the amount dependent on the weather and the individual animal. The donkey’s body condition score should be measured at least four times a year, while weigh tapes and donkey weight normograms help to monitor for slow, steady weight gain. Weaning the foal can be a stressful time for the jenny, so she needs similar careful management and monitoring. Further advice can be found at https://www.thedonkeysanctuary.org.uk/what-we-do/knowledge-and-advice/fo...
https://www.thedonkeysanctuary.org.uk/what-we-do/for-professionals

Castration
Castration is a valuable tool to reduce the population of unwanted donkeys and encourage responsible ownership. The optimum time to castrate a donkey is between 6 and 18 months, although some reports suggest that a jack may be sexually mature by 12 months. Donkeys castrated after 18 months are more likely to retain stallion-like behaviours, and to have complications from surgery due to extensive fat deposits in the scrotum, larger testicles and associated blood vessels. Ensure a thorough preoperative check; many donkeys will have had no veterinary contact until castration. Check for heart murmurs and subclinical lung disease. Discuss vaccination and worming
programmes: at a minimum ensure tetanus protection. For most young donkeys, a field castration is adequate. Use a weigh tape or weight estimator to calculate weight. Take a qualified assistant vet or nurse to administer the anaesthetic and top-up doses, as the procedure takes longer than a standing castration. Owners are not suitable assistants. For field anaesthesia, remember to take equipment to protect the donkey’s face and eyes: towels, eye drops, padded head collar, etc.

The Donkey Sanctuary vets prefer to use a standard closed technique for castration of donkeys. The donkey is placed under general anaesthesia, and local anaesthesia is used in the testicle (5–10 mL depending on size). The upper hindlimb is held or roped out of the way. The area may need to be clipped as the scrotum is frequently covered with hair. In the young donkey there should be minimal swelling post-operatively; we use analgesia at donkey doses, for 3–5 days, and depocillin intramuscularly usually for 3 days. Encourage exercise daily; it is useful to cold hose the inguinal area to reduce swelling, avoiding saturating the wound with water. Monitor appetite, faecal output, and demeanour for a week post-surgery. Complications include haemorrhage and infection. If blood is dripping faster than 1 drop/second and not slowing, consider external pressure or re-anaesthetise to locate the source. Infection manifests as a slow-healing wound, discharge, and a painful thickening of the remaining cord tissue. Surgical investigation is often required. In cryptorchid donkeys the anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH) test is proven to detect retained testicular tissue. If this test is not available, a human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) stimulation test is required as the oestrone sulfate test is unreliable in donkeys.

Sedation and anaesthesia
Many young donkeys are not well handled, and we must provide good sedation in a welfare-friendly manner. Aim to keep bonded companions together to reduce stress, and
consider oral or i.m. sedation if required before attempting i.v. access.

Young colts can have thick coats and a well-developed ventral neck muscle – clip the vein, elevate the head and aim for the jugular above or below the mid third of the neck. A catheter is needed to top up anaesthesia for castrations. Donkey skin is relatively thick so use a scalpel to nick the skin before inserting the catheter; using a bleb of local anaesthetic makes this easier. Typical equine doses of alpha-2 agonists work for donkeys, but be prepared to increase the dose if the donkey is stressed and do not induce anaesthesia until the head has dropped below the withers. Ketamine at a dose of 2.2–3 mg/kg is typically used together with diazepam at 0.1 mg/kg for induction. Multimodal analgesia is provided with the use of an NSAID, an opioid (typically butorphanol) and local analgesia. Donkeys metabolise ketamine faster than horses so be prepared to top up at timed 10-minute intervals with one-third of the induction dose.

If a triple drip is used for anaesthesia, use a recipe appropriate for donkeys, for example: 300 mL saline, 225 mL 10% guaphenesin, 225 mg xylazine and 900 mg ketamine. Avoid doses of guaphenesin above 150 mg/kg (1.5 mL/kg of 10% solution), as this can cause respiratory and cardiovascular depression. Decreased depth of anaesthesia is often preceded by increased rate and depth of respiration before movement occurs; monitor carefully.

Recovery from anaesthesia is usually good in donkeys, unless multiple ketamine top ups have been used. Be prepared to re-sedate with an alpha-2 agonist. A typical 180 kg donkey requires a size 16 mm endotracheal tube, but have a range of sizes between 14 and 18 mm available. Donkeys can be difficult to intubate due to the
narrow epiglottis and caudally angled larynx.

Exploring methodologies for capturing multispecies engagement in equid assisted activities: The perspective of autistic children and donkeys

Citation

Michelle Whitham Jones. 1 July 2019. Exploring methodologies for capturing multispecies engagement in equid assisted activities: The perspective of autistic children and donkeys. Journal of Animal Law & Interdisciplinary Animal Welfare Studies. 3.

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Publication date: 
1 July 2019
Volume: 
3
Abstract

Using equids for their assumed therapeutic impact on humans is a growing area of ​​knowledge in human health sciences. The impact of Equid Assisted Activities (EAA) is often measured by psychometric test score changes for the human. Thus, evidence for the practice tends to be assessed through an anthropocentric lens. The research described in this article consisted of exploring a mixture of quantitative and qualitative methodologies for measuring EAA through the perspective of autistic children and their donkey partners. The Quality of Engagement Tool (QET) is introduced as an instrument to measure ongoing engagement between participants during sessions. Narrative Analysis and Narrative Ethology captured tangential and sequential stories of interactions that revealed the individuality of each child or donkey participant's experience. The findings identified that one participant was able to affect their partner's engagement behavior irrespective of species, and that both donkeys and children modified their behaviors when interacting with a member of the opposite species. The results suggest that, in principle, EAA has the potential to bring about behavioural changes to the other species. Therefore, in order to ensure validity, both the human and equid's ongoing responses must be measured equally in future research.
Published online

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EMS and PPID in donkeys

Citation

Alexandra K. Thiemann. 9 May 2019. EMS and PPID in donkeys. Presented at Schweizerische Tierarztetage. (8 May - 10 May 2019). Fribourg, Switzerland.

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Date presented: 
Thursday 9 May 2019
Abstract

Equine Metabolic Syndrome is defined as a “Clinical syndrome associated with an increased risk of laminitis that includes insulin dysregulation and any combination of increased generalised or regional adiposity, weight loss resistance, and altered adipokine concentrations.” https://sites.tufts.edu/edu/equineendogroup.
Donkeys are prone to Equine Metabolic Syndrome due to their physiological adaptations to survive in resource poor environments. The donkey has a lower nutritional requirement than a pony of the same size, but is often exposed to excess feed with high non- structural carbohydrate levels. In addition, they are generally given little exercise.
Donkeys and many small pony breeds are considered to be relatively insulin resistant- which has a survival advantage, but also leads to, and is linked with both hyperinsulinemia and obesity.
As well as clinical symptoms we need to test for insulin dysregulation. Resting insulin levels have very low sensitivity /high specificity and should not be relied upon as a sole test. At the Donkey Sanctuary we use an oral carbohydrate challenge using Karol Light (corn syrup). As donkeys are at increased risk of hyperlipaemia we do not starve patients before testing , but have a standard protocol that involves the donkey only having access to straw for at least 6 hours prior to testing.
We then give 45ml/100kg of syrup and obtain baseline blood samples. A second sample is taken 60-90 minutes later to measure serum insulin, which should be below 60mU/L.
At present adipokine testing is not validated for donkeys
There will be cases of EMS that do not demonstrate obesity and cases that also suffer from concurrent PPID, so in some cases further diagnostics will be warranted.
In many cases management of EMS relies on improving the dietary management of the donkey, and initiating a controlled weight loss programme. Ideally, the exercise is increased, but this will be dictated by whether there is any underlying lameness. To prevent boredom in cases of dietary restriction there are several ways to modify and enrich the stable environment.
Medical treatments exist: metformin can be used to reduce glucose absorption enterically and help in transitioning a donkey to pasture; a thyroxine derivative may be useful to increase the metabolic rate.
Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID) is seen in donkeys and, as many are kept until they are geriatric it is seen relatively frequently. The condition is known to be associated with an increased risk of immunosuppression and laminitis. Affected cases may have obvious clinical signs such as hirsutism, muscle wastage and polydipsia.
However we rely upon testing suspect donkeys for elevations in ACTH to detect cases before such signs are reached.
PPID results in hyperinsulinemia, which is a risk factor for laminitis. We also find these cases may have higher faecal egg counts, higher ectoparasites burdens and delayed wound healing.
Treatment of the underlying disorder relied upon the use of pergolide- Prascend at 2µg/kg. As the drug can suppress appetite donkeys need careful monitoring when on the drug and may need to start at lower doses. Testing In autumn when the levels are at their highest is considered the best time to discriminate for positive cases.

Seasonal abundance of the stable fly stomoxys calcitrans in Southwest England

Citation

A. Parravani, Charlotte Chivers, Nikki Bell, Sarah Long, Faith A. Burden, Richard Wall. 2 November 2019. Seasonal abundance of the stable fly stomoxys calcitrans in Southwest England. Medical and Veterinary Entomology. 33:4. 485-490.

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Publication date: 
2 November 2019
Volume: 
33
Issue: 
4
Page numbers: 
485-490
DOI number: 
10.1111/mve.12386
Abstract

The stable fly Stomoxys calcitrans (L.) is a cosmopolitan biting fly of both economic and welfare concern, primarily as a result of its painful bite, which can cause blood loss, discomfort and loss of productivity in livestock. Between June and November in 2016 and May and December in 2017, Alsynite sticky‐traps were deployed at four Donkey Sanctuary sites in southwest England, which experience recurrent seasonal biting fly problems. The aim was to evaluate the seasonal dynamics of the stable fly populations and the risk factors associated with abundance. In total, 19 835 S. calcitrans were trapped during the study period. In both years, abundance increased gradually over summer months, peaking in late August/September. There were no relationships between seasonally detrended abundance and any climatic factors. Fly abundance was significantly different between sites and population size was consistent between years at three of the four sites. The median chronological age, as determined by pteridine analysis of flies caught live when blood‐feeding, was 4.67 days (interquartile range 3.8–6.2 days) in males and 6.79 days (interquartile range 4.8–10.4 days) in females; there was no significant, consistent change in age or age structure over time, suggesting that adult flies emerge continuously over the summer, rather than in discrete age‐related cohorts. The data suggest that flies are more abundant in the vicinity of active animal facilities, although the strong behavioural association between flies and their hosts means that they are less likely to be caught on traps where host availability is high. The implications of these results for fly management are discussed.

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Donkey and mule behaviour for the veterinary team

Citation

Anna Haines, Joanna Goliszek. January 2019. Donkey and mule behaviour for the veterinary team. UK-Vet Equine. 3:1. 27-32.

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Publication date: 
23 January 2019
Journal: 
UK-Vet Equine
Volume: 
3
Issue: 
1
Page numbers: 
27-32
DOI number: 
10.12968/ukve.2019.3.1.27
Abstract

The donkey's evolution, ethology and learning capacity mean that the behaviour of donkeys and mules is significantly different to that of the horse. Subtle behaviour change in the donkey can indicate severe, life-threatening disease. An understanding of donkey and mule behaviour will help veterinary surgeons to handle these animals safely, treat them effectively and educate owners to spot the subtle signs of disease

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Shelter seeking behaviour of donkeys and horses in a temperate climate

Citation

Leanne Proops, Britta Osthaus, Nikki Bell, Sarah Long, Kristin Hayday, Faith A. Burden. March 2019. Shelter seeking behaviour of donkeys and horses in a temperate climate. Journal of Veterinary Behavior.

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Publication date: 
29 March 2019
DOI number: 
10.1016/j.jveb.2019.03.008
Abstract

Domestic donkeys descended from wild asses, adapted to the semi-arid climates of Africa, whereas domestic horses originate from more temperate areas of Eurasia. Despite this difference in evolutionary history, modern domestic equids can be found throughout the world, in a wide range of conditions, many of which are very different from their natural environments. To explore the protection from the elements that different equid species may require in the temperate climate of the UK, the shelter seeking behaviour of 135 donkeys and 73 horses was assessed across a period of 16 months, providing a total of 13,513 observations. The location of each animal (inside a constructed shelter, outside unprotected or using natural shelter) was recorded alongside measures of environmental conditions including temperature, wind speed, lux, precipitation and level of insect challenge. Statistical models revealed clear differences in the constructed-shelter-seeking behaviour of donkeys and horses. Donkeys sought shelter significantly more often at lower temperatures whereas horses tended to move inside when the temperature rose above 20°C. Donkeys were more affected by precipitation, with the majority of them moving indoors when it rained. Donkeys also showed a higher rate of shelter use when wind speed increased to moderate, while horses remained outside. Horses appeared to be more affected by insect challenge, moving inside as insect harassment outside increased. There were also significant differences in the use of natural shelter by the two species, with donkeys using natural shelter relatively more often to shelter from rain and wind and horses seeking natural shelter relatively more frequently when sunny. These results reflect donkeys’ and horses’ adaptation to different climates and suggest that the shelter requirements of these two equid species differ, with donkeys seeking additional protection from the elements in temperate climates.
Available online prior to publication in press.

Highlights

  • We observed the shelter seeking behaviour of donkeys and horses in a temperate climate.
  • Overall donkeys sought shelter more frequently than horses, particularly when cold (<10˚C), rainy and windy.
  • Constructed shelter use by horses was low but they started to move inside as temperatures rose (>20˚C).
  • Horses sought natural shelter more than donkeys when sunny and appeared more affected by insects.
  • Differences in shelter seeking behaviour appear to reflect donkeys’ and horses’ adaptation to different climates.
Online references

Measuring engagement between autistic children and donkeys

Citation

Michelle Whitham Jones. 5 July 2018. Measuring engagement between autistic children and donkeys. Presented at 27th International Society for Anthrozoology Conference. (2 July - 5 July 2018). Sydney, Australia.

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Date presented: 
Thursday 5 July 2018
Abstract

There is a wealth of research claiming the ‘benefits’ of Equid Assisted Interactions (EAI’s), but these are often anthropocentric and describe ‘improvement’ to the human’s disability as the measurable benefit. This study concentrates on the dyadic relationship between pre or nonverbal autistic children and their donkey partners during interaction sessions.

Prior to clarifying potential ‘benefits’ of EAI, I propose that it is essential to first measure the quality of engagement between heterospecific participants. This provides contextual evidence about the nature of each individual’s behavioural responses relative to the other. Knowing the quality of engagement between participants, creates an opportunity to disentangle variables and interpret the potentially confounding causality of perceived benefits.

By designing and utilising a unique Quality of Engagement Tool (QET) to measure engagement of both donkeys and children, I was able to capture the emerging relationship between human and equid participants. I observed how heterogeneity of character and personal preference, irrespective of species, affected levels of engagement. The tool identified differences in engagement seeking or avoiding that varied, with different partners. The QET was designed to avoid the possibility that one member of the dyad would gain a larger share of observer’s attention, rendering the other partners’ subtle behaviours unintentionally missed by casual observation. This observational bias, possibly quite common in other EAI sessions, meant that welfare concern signals could be unintentionally, hidden in plain sight. Donkeys are generally more stoic than horses and may only display subtle behaviour changes when in pain or fearful. My findings showed that QET enabled subtle nuances to be detected in real-time and decisions made about the suitability, well-being and consent of either participant.

The Synthesis of Encounters among Autistic Children and donkeys: Can a mixed methods design show positive outcomes for both species?

Citation
Authors
Presentation details
Date presented: 
Friday 7 October 2016
Abstract

Many studies that regard the effectiveness of animal assisted interventions are in fact only interested in the child, assuming that the animals in the research are a homogenous group whose characters and emotional states don’t play a part.

Both nonverbal autistic children and donkeys communicate with gesture and often with limited vocalisations. Both come from a social species and are sentient. Their individual emotional states must affect the other.

This study places both the nonverbal autistic children and the donkeys that facilitate their intervention as equal participants, thus recording both species responses using a qualitative behaviour analyses tool and a multispecies ethnographic approach.

Monitoring herd health in donkeys using welfare assessment and clinical records

Citation

Alexandra K. Thiemann, Karen Rickards. 22 September 2018. Monitoring herd health in donkeys using welfare assessment and clinical records. Presented at 14th International Conference Equitation Science. (21 September - 24 September 2018). Rome, Italy. 63.

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Presentation details
Date presented: 
Saturday 22 September 2018
Abstract

The Donkey Sanctuary (DS) is an equine charity whose mission is to “transform the quality of life for donkeys, mules and the people that depend upon them worldwide”. In the UK, The DS cares for over 2000 donkeys on a number of farms varying in size from 250-580 animals. The farms aim to rehome up to 10% of their herd annually to guardian (private) homes or donkey assisted therapy centres. The farms also provide a show case for our work to visiting professionals and the public. Welfare of the donkeys on farms is critical to the credibility of the Donkey Sanctuary. Using welfare-based criteria alongside health records has enabled the teams to pro-actively monitor donkey welfare, refine management practices, re-direct budgets and track progress. Since 2017, the DS has been using the stage 1 AWIN (Animal Welfare Indicators), which are animal and resource based measures. AWIN is used on a quarterly basis on all farms to evaluate the following AWIN criteria: Appropriate nutrition (body condition score BCS), Absence of injuries (lameness, joint swelling, skin change, prolapse), Absence of disease (hair coat, faecal staining, ocular/nasal discharge, abnormal breathing, cheek teeth palpation), Absence of Pain (hoof neglect, lameness, hot branding), and Human-Animal Relationship (avoidance behaviours, tail tuck). The donkeys chosen are a random 10% at each visit using a named list of donkeys. This data is evaluated alongside information collected from a computer based Animal Management System, where vets input clinical conditions in pre-determined categories to monitor physical health - the main ones aligned are BCS, lameness, colic, hyperlipaemia, sarcoid, eye disease, and mortality rate. Over 1 year at 1 farm with 580 donkeys: AWIN showed (i) loss of weight control over summer with total animals BCS >4 (scale 1-5) increasing from 13% in January to 31% in September, (ii) lameness peaking on turnout (from 6-15% herd), (iii) skin disease (relating to lice burden) decreasing from 32% (winter) to 7 % summer, (iv) hoof neglect (thrush, abscesses) remaining high all year at >50%, (v) avoidance behaviours constant at about 12%- relating to new animals arriving and calm animals leaving. Data is recorded in Excel, and presented graphically and by written documentation.
Quarterly meetings with the farm manager and staff enable timely feedback.
Welfare can be benchmarked across farms and improvements aimed for. AWIN is validated and straightforward to use.

Lay person message: Traditional herd health monitoring is based on veterinary morbidity/ mortality figures using historical data from computerised records. The Donkey Sanctuary has responsibility for a large number of rescue and rehomed donkeys on farms whose welfare is high priority. The DS has introduced a validated welfare assessment tool to be used four times a year, to monitor animal and resource based measures of welfare (AWIN). This allows information to captured in real time rather than retrospectively and adverse welfare can be identified. Using this tool allows evidence based management changes to be made.

Proceedings
Number of pages: 
63
Publisher: 
Pisa University Press

How is that donkey? Quality of life assessment in companion and geriatric donkeys

Citation

Alexandra K. Thiemann. 15 November 2018. How is that donkey? Quality of life assessment in companion and geriatric donkeys. Presented at London Vet Show. (15 November - 16 November 2018). London, UK.

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Presentation details
Date presented: 
Thursday 15 November 2018
Event name: 
London Vet Show
Abstract

In the UK, there are an estimated 10-15, 000 donkeys; most of these are kept as companion animals, while some are used for light riding/driving and as therapy animals.

Donkeys can be a long- lived equid with reported ages commonly into their late 20s and even 30’s. As they are not required to perform as athletes, many donkeys enter old age with chronic geriatric problems that need diagnosing and managing.

The donkey is a species with pronounced pain masking behaviours (stoicism), and many serious, painful and even life-threatening illnesses may present only as a generally dull animal with reduced appetite.

There is a general lack of many preventative health measures provided to donkeys including regular dentistry, farriery, anthelmintic treatment, and even vaccination, microchipping and passporting. This means that donkeys not only are more likely to suffer disease themselves but also have the potential to act as sources of disease/infection to other equines.

The net results of all the above is that donkey welfare is frequently compromised and charities such as The Donkey Sanctuary are required to provide assistance or be involved in prosecutions against owners under the Animal Welfare Act.

There are many methods to assess welfare involving animal based and resource based indicators. The Animal Welfare Indicators (AWIN) for donkeys is founded on the principles of good feeding, good housing, good health and appropriate behaviour. Art the Donkey Sanctuary we are using this to monitor the herd health of our donkeys on a regular basis. A larger group of welfare indicators has been developed to assess welfare across the full spectrum of roles that donkeys play globally including in the meat, milk and skin trade. These type of assessments are particularly useful for providing information about groups of donkeys and how to prioritise resources to care for them.

For the individual donkey and owner we have developed a simple Quality of Life framework using eight objective easily identified criteria and one subjective criteria. These are charted on a regular basis with the owner and vet working together to agree on the scoring system.

The criteria that we have found to be of most value are:

Body Condition Score- using Donkey scales 1 (thin) to 5 (obese)
Weight in Kg – either weigh scales or heart /girth measurements and donkey normogram
Feed- required to maintain weight or cope with condition
Medication- for regular use e.g. to stabilise PPID cases, to manage lameness/stiffness
Dental grade- using Donkey Sanctuary grading system 1 (good)- 5 (poor)
Appetite- monitor carefully to ensure no sham eating
Movement- lameness grade 1 mild- 5 severe. Donkey normal values for radiological parameter of the feet should be used.
Blood results- using donkey normal values
Demeanour- general owner assessment of well being- this can be supplemented by a behavioural assessment form that is available to look at normal day to day activity patterns of the donkey.

The system developed uses donkey normal values and knowledge of the variations from the horse to interpret the findings and ensure correct dosing of medications.
When we use this system over a period of time there is a better understanding of the long term needs of the donkey by all parties – vets, owners, and paraprofessionals. Monitoring can result in changes to management that improve QoL and ensure a better life. Conversely monitoring can allow objective measurements to note decline in QoL so that all involved in the care of the donkey can make the decision that euthanasia may be the most humane option. Regular checks reduce the problem that is often seen when owners adapt to a poorer QoL as they fail to notice incremental changes in the animals’ well-being.

There are many ways as vets that we can help donkeys to live good lives; and by knowing their unique characteristics and differences from horses we can ensure that the welfare of donkeys we attend is as good as we can make it.

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