Morphological study of tracheal shape in donkeys with and without tracheal obstruction


Rhianne J. Powell, Nicole du Toit, Faith A. Burden, Padraic M. Dixon. March 2010. Morphological study of tracheal shape in donkeys with and without tracheal obstruction. Equine Veterinary Journal. 42:2. 136-141.

Publication details
Publication date: 
1 March 2010
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DOI number: 

Reason for performing study

There is limited information on the gross tracheal morphology of donkeys with or without tracheal abnormalities.


To: 1) examine the morphology of tracheas of donkeys with and without clinical and/or post mortem evidence of tracheal obstruction; 2) record the cross-sectional dimensions and shapes of tracheal rings at fixed sites; and 3) document prevalence, sites and characteristics of detected tracheal abnormalities.


The tracheas of 75, predominantly aged (median age 30 years, range 7-48 years) donkeys that died or were subjected to euthanasia on humane grounds were examined. Five had severe dyspnoea due to tracheal obstruction (with intercurrent lung disease in 3), while 7 had post mortem evidence of severe tracheal airway obstruction. Every 5th tracheal ring was dissected free and the inner and outer vertical and transverse dimensions and cross sectional areas were measured. Each dissected ring was photographed and the shape of the trachea was classified as normal or, in one of 6 abnormal grades, according to the type and degree of structural abnormality present.


The tracheas had a mean of 43 (range 34-50) tracheal rings that tended to be more oval in shape in the distal cervical region. Only 31.2% of rings examined had a circular to oval shape. Dorso-ventral flattening was present in 0.9% of tracheal rings, dorsal ligament separation in 24.4%, slight cartilage deformity in 26.0%, moderate cartilage deformity in 10.4%, marked cartilage deformity in 1.9% and miscellaneous other abnormalities in 4.9% of tracheal rings. The 12 donkeys with ante or post mortem evidence of tracheal obstruction had significantly increased tracheal abnormality grade in comparison to the remaining donkeys.

Conclusions and potential relevance

Structural tracheal abnormalities are present in most old donkeys, but generally do not cause clinical problems in these sedentary animals unless intercurrent pulmonary disease is present.

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