This chapter offers an overview of the types of surgery commonly performed at The Donkey Sanctuary. A standard equine surgical text should be consulted for a more detailed explanation of the surgical techniques discussed. References to surgeries specific to the donkey are included at the end of the chapter.
A review of the last 160 surgeries performed under general anaesthetic at The Donkey Sanctuary shows that the majority are routine castrations and the removal of dermal masses. In addition, operations on the hoof and distal phalanx are relatively common due to keratomas and/or septic pedal bone. In young donkeys we also see a number of tenotomy operations necessitated by flexural deformities of the distal inter-phalangeal joint. Less common are dental surgeries requiring the removal of cheek teeth, the removal of chondroids from the guttural pouch, exploratory laparotomy, enucleation of the eye and wound management. Exploration of the frontal and/or maxillary sinus is frequently required under local anaesthetic and sedation.
Different populations of donkeys have different surgical problems. For example, in Donkey Sanctuary projects overseas, which concern a younger population of working, breeding animals, there is a higher incidence of work-related wounds and dystocias.
The age range of donkeys presented for surgery can be a challenge. Many donkeys are presented for castration in their 20s, and geriatirc donkeys often require surgical procedures. As in the horse, donkeys with increasing age show different problems. At The Donkey Sanctuary we have seen no instances of squamous cell carcinoma of the external genitalia, nor melanomas in grey animals. Pedunculated lipoma causing colic is rare, despite the tendency of the donkey to be obese.