Hide nor hair –the illicit trade in donkey hides is a threat to wild asses


Zoe Raw. 2 September 2019. Hide nor hair –the illicit trade in donkey hides is a threat to wild asses. Poster presented at 2nd International Wild Equid Conference. (1 September - 5 September 2019). Prague, Czech Republic.

Presentation details
Date presented: 
Monday 2 September 2019

The global donkey population is estimated at 44 million and is largely associated with economically developing nations where donkeys are used as working animals. Donkeys play a central and critical role in supporting the livelihoods of millions of people accross the world, providing support for farming, enabling access to resources, and in food production. Global demand for diverse products of donkey origin has escalated rapidly, with a particular interest in the premium products resulting from donkey skins.

Ejiao is a traditional Chinese medicine product which is based upon extracts of donkey gelatin from donkey skins, mixed with herbs and other ingredients to form a gelatinous bar, which is marketed as a miracle cure for multiple health problems. Since 2010, consumer demand for ejiao has increased rapidly, and subsequently, so has the demand for donkey skins. The Donkey Sanctuary estimate that a minimum of 1.8 million donkey skins are being traded per year, but this may be a gross underestimate. The increasing wealth and diaspora of the Chinese middle classes, alongside the apparent credibility of ejiao products, appears to have created such a high level of demand for donkey skins that global supply is struggling to keep up, leading to high prices and widespread claims of fraud. Such high levels of demand by the Chinese market are fuelling global reports of donkey theft and a sudden increase in the purchase price of donkeys. Products of donkey origin are so highly sought after that ejiao can sell for up to USD $500/kg.

The alarmingly high demand for donkey skins, and high prices that a donkey skin can fetch, positions donkey skin in a similar position as ivory or rhino horn. There is a complete lack of regulation over the utilisation of donkeys for the skin trade to fuel ejiao production, and new slaughter houses are opening at rapid rates to keep up with demand. Consequently, there has been a sharp rise in donkey thefts. As well as being unsustainable and harmful to rural livelihoods, this illicit trade could have devastating effects on populations of wild asses. Donkey skin is highly valuable, yet increasingly scarce, making it feasible that traders will start targeting wild asses. The Afrcan Wild Ass Equus africanus is Critically Endangered, with fewer than 200 mature indivduals remaining in the wild; unfortunately, the species occupies an area of Africa where the trade in donkey skins is high, exposing it to risk of being targeted. There is also some indication that populations of Asiatic Wild Ass Equus hemionus could also come under threat, given their proximity to China and surrounding socioeconomic climate.

The international trade in donkey skins has emerged rapidly and fiercely, and is grossly unsustainable. The trade has the significant potential to eradicate populations of donkeys across Africa, and poses a serious threat to the conservation and survival of African Wild Ass populations. In this presentation I raise and highlight these issues, and open up discussion for how this new threat may be mitigated for the conservation and management of wild equids.

Between welfare and conservation: understanding ‘risk’ in relation to feral and free-roaming donkeys


Cara Clancy. 2 September 2019. Between welfare and conservation: understanding ‘risk’ in relation to feral and free-roaming donkeys. Poster presented at 2nd International Wild Equid Conference. (1 September - 5 September 2019). Prague, Czech Republic.

Presentation details
Date presented: 
Monday 2 September 2019

For thousands of years, the donkey (Equus asinus) has played an essential role in human society, underpinning the earliest forms of civilisation, providing critical trade networks, and contributing to modern western history through the colonisation of the ‘New World’. Yet, with the advent of motorised transport and agricultural machinery the role of the donkey has diminished in many parts of the world. No longer considered economically viable, donkeys have been turned loose over the years and left to fend for themselves (Mitchell, 2018). These feral and semi-feral donkeys are domesticated animals that have managed to re-adapt, survive and reproduce on their own, without human management. Australia now holds the world’s largest population of feral donkeys – thought to be around 5 million individuals. Here, they are framed as pests; no longer seen as useful to society or fitting for the landscapes in which they dwell. In these situations, donkeys can suffer due to local mistreatment or government attempts to contain the problem, as is the case with the controversial Judas Collar programme in Australia (Bough, 2006). Currently, very little is known about the welfare status of feral and free-roaming donkeys globally. Due to their ambiguous status (being neither owned nor wild) there is often a grey area with respect to their legal status, rights and protections. This paper suggests that more research is needed to understand how welfare issues are defined and prioritised in relation to feral donkeys – both at the individual level and population level.

Reproduction and neonatology: breeding, foaling and foal disorders


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.

Presentation details
Date presented: 
Saturday 14 September 2019

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.

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

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].

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 ( Last updated 29-Mar 2010.

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


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.

Presentation details
Date presented: 
Saturday 14 September 2019

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

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].
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,
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.

Care of the juvenile donkey


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

Presentation details
Date presented: 
Saturday 14 September 2019

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

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


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.

Publication details
Publication date: 
1 July 2019

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

Online references

Use of Animal Welfare assessment protocols (AWIN) and health data to monitor and improve herd health in donkeys


Alexandra K. Thiemann, Karen Rickards. 21 April 2018. Use of Animal Welfare assessment protocols (AWIN) and health data to monitor and improve herd health in donkeys. Poster presented at 15th World Equine Veterinary Conference. (21 April - 23 April 2018). Beijing, China.

Presentation details
Date presented: 
Saturday 21 April 2018

Introduction-The Donkey Sanctuary (DS) is a global welfare charity whose mission is
“To transform the quality of life for donkeys, mules and people worldwide” [1]. 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 approximately 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 public and professionals. Welfare of the donkeys on the farms is critical to the credibility of the Donkey Sanctuary.
The veterinary team monitors the herd health to maintain high welfare standards. Traditional input consisted of weekly visits, annual vaccination, dental treatment, parasite control, and a reactive approach to illness. Since the introduction of The DS Animal Management System [2] and Animal welfare assessment protocols(AWIN), the team have been able to use evidence -based criteria (EBC) to assess farm herd health.
Methods- Every four months 1) the AMS data base is interrogated supplying information on relevant queries including Body Condition Score, Lameness, Colic, Hyperlipaemia, Sarcoids, Infectious disease, and Mortality rate, 2) an on farm welfare assessment is performed following the stage 1 AWIN (Animal Welfare Indicators) protocol for donkeys [3].
Resource based and animal- based indicators are assessed on a randomly selected 10% of the herd by a team including vet, farm manager and grooms. Different animals are selected at each visit by using the farm named list of donkeys.
Results- Results are recorded via excel, graphical representation and written documentation. The results can be sub-divided in many ways depending upon clinical need.

Discussion- Using EBC and AWIN provides the vet team with tools to pro-actively monitor donkey health, refine management practices, re-direct budgets and track progress. Welfare can be bench marked and improvements aimed for. Monitoring / recording welfare data allows the DS to be compliant with national legislation [4]. Although a number of welfare assessment tools are available AWIN is validated and straightforward to use. The poster will illustrate 4 quarters of data presented graphically.

1., accessed 12/12/17

2 , The Donkey Sanctuary’s Animal Management System (Microsoft Dynamic CRM), introduced October 2015 Sarah Tulloch, AMS Manager/Project Lead.
3 AWIN, accessed 12/12/17
4 Animal Welfare Act 2006, accessed 12/12/17

EMS and PPID in donkeys


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

Presentation details
Date presented: 
Thursday 9 May 2019

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.”
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.

Medication for donkeys


Alexandra K. Thiemann. 9 May 2019. Medication for donkeys. Presented at Schweizerische Tierarztetage. (8 May - 10 May 2019). Fribourg, Switzerland.

Presentation details
Date presented: 
Thursday 9 May 2019

Drug manufacturers consider the donkey to be a minor species, despite the millions that work to sustain livelihoods globally, through draught power, milk and meat. Unfortunately, this means that very few drugs are licensed for use in the donkey and we rely upon the work of a select few researchers to know about drug metabolism. The Donkey Sanctuary has a non-invasive research policy and so is unable to work in this field.

In most instances, it is sensible to start with using recommended horse dosages but with knowledge of some fundamental differences between the species to aid in correct prescribing.

Donkeys can range in size from miniature to mammoth and accurate weighing is best practice. Donkey foals may be only 10- 15kg when born. There are donkey specific weight /height normograms and weight tapes available:

Many donkeys are obese and this can affect the distribution of drugs. Conversely, a thick winter coat can hide an emaciated frame. It is helpful to determine Body condition Score BCS, when considering medication and this requires hands on palpation of the donkey.

The donkey evolved to be more desert adapted than the horse, and are reported to tolerate dehydration with fewer and later clinical and haematological signs. The normal haematology and biochemistry values are different from horse: red cell numbers are lower with a larger mean cell volume. They have a different volume of distribution of drugs. Their liver metabolises drugs in a slightly different manner from the horse- usually more rapidly with some exceptions.

Donkeys are stoical and good at masking disease. Routine haematology and biochemistry samples are advisable before starting treatment especially with potentially nephrotoxic or protein bound drugs. Good assessment of pain is useful in monitoring the effectiveness of analgesia, we use a donkey composite and facial pain score.

Donkeys working overseas are often dehydrated and may need rehydrating before full doses of drugs such as NSAIDs are used.

It is always good practice to base prescribing on a full clinical examination and the results of any test results including bacteriology culture and sensitivity. However due to the fact that donkeys often present late with clinical signs, and many are geriatric and immunosuppressed, antibiotic therapy may need to be based on empirical knowledge and using best practice guidelines available to protect critically important antibiotics.

This presentation will cover recommendations for prescribing in donkeys for the following areas:

Maintenance of anaesthesia with top ups
Maintenance of anaesthesia with triple drip


Grosenbaugh et al, (2001) Pharmacology and therapeutics in donkeys. EVE 23 (10) 523-530
Matthews, N.S., et al, (1997b) Anaesthesia of donkeys and mules. Equine vet. Educ. 9, 198-202.
Burden, F and Thiemann, A K (2015) Donkeys are different. Journal of Equine Vet Science 35 (5) 376-382.

Seasonal abundance of the stable fly stomoxys calcitrans in Southwest England


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
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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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