United Kingdom

Working across Europe to improve donkey welfare

The UK public and veterinary profession often think of the equine charity sector as dealing with issues directly related to the UK equine population - overproduction, rehoming, shelter and welfare. However, The Donkey Sanctuary, like many UK-based equine charities, also works in Europe and further afield to try to address a much broader range of issues.

Volume
1796
Start page
298
End page
300
Publication date
Country

Viraemic frequencies and seroprevalence of non-primate hepacivirus and equine pegiviruses in horses and other mammalian species

Non-primate hepacivirus (NPHV), equine pegivirus (EPgV) and Theiler's disease associated virus (TDAV) are newly discovered members of two genera in the Flaviviridae family, Hepacivirus and Pegivirus respectively, that include human hepatitis C virus (HCV) and human pegivirus (HPgV). To investigate their epidemiology, persistence and clinical features of infection, large cohorts of horses and other mammalian species were screened for NPHV, EPgV and TDAV viraemia and for past exposure through serological assays for NPHV and EPgV-specific antibodies. NPHV antibodies were detected in 43% of 328 horses screened for antibodies to NS3 and core antibodies, of which three were viraemic by PCR. All five horses that were stablemates of a viraemic horse were seropositive, as was a dog on the same farm. With this single exception, all other species were negative for NPHV antibodies and viraemia (donkeys (n=100), dogs (n=112), cats (n=131), non-human primates (n=164) and humans (n=362). EPgV antibodies to NS3 were detected in 66.5% of horses, including 11 of the 12 horses that had EPgV viraemia. All donkey samples were negative for EPgV antibody and RNA. All horse and donkey samples were negative for TDAV RNA. By comparing viraemia frequencies in horses with and without liver disease, no evidence was obtained that supported an association between active NPHV and EPgV infections with hepatopathy. The study demonstrates that NPHV and EPgV infections are widespread and enzootic in the study horse population and confirms that NPHV and potentially EPgV have higher frequencies of viral clearance than HCV and HPgV infections in humans.

Volume
95
Issue
8
Publication date
Country

Use of sterile maggots to treat panniculitis in an aged donkey

An aged female donkey developed a severe, localised, suppurative panniculitis secondary to a skin wound. Bacterial culture of swabs taken from the wound gave a profuse growth of multi-drug-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a profuse growth of Escherichia coli and a moderate growth of beta-haemolytic Streptococcus species. The lesion did not respond to conventional medical and surgical treatment and continued to progress. Six applications of sterile larvae (maggots) of the common greenbottle, Lucilia sericata, were used to debride the wound successfully.

Volume
149
Start page
768
End page
770
Publication date
Keywords
Country

Understanding the attitudes of communities to the social, economic and cultural importance of working donkeys in rural, peri-urban and urban areas of Ethiopia

Working donkeys (Equus africanus asinus) are vital to the development and support of people's livelihoods in rural, peri-urban, and urban areas of Ethiopia. However, despite their critical role in providing transport, food security, and income generation to some of the poorest and most marginalized households, donkey contributions to human livelihoods have been largely unexplored. Donkey users, veterinary surgeons, business owners, and civil servants were interviewed to investigate the role humans play in shaping donkey lives while furthering our understanding of the social and economic impacts of working donkeys to human lives. Findings are discussed through seven guiding themes; donkeys as generators of income, the relationship between donkeys and social status, donkeys and affect, empowerment through donkeys, the role of donkeys in reducing vulnerability and encouraging resilience, donkey husbandry, and gender dynamics all of which gave a broader and richer insight into the value of donkeys. Donkeys are an important support in rural, peri-urban, and urban settings through the creation of economic security, independence, and participation in local saving schemes. In addition, donkeys provide social status, empowerment to marginalized groups such as women and the very poor and provide a sense of companionship. Whether the interviewee was a donkey user or a key informant appeared to influence their views on donkeys and their welfare, as did their location. The variations in views and practices between urban and rural settings suggests that assessing the socioeconomic value of donkeys in different locations within the same area or country is critical, rather than assuming that similar views are held between compatriots. Despite their centrality to many people's lives in Ethiopia, working donkeys often hold lowly status, are misunderstood, and given little husbandry and healthcare.

Volume
7
Issue
60
Publication date
Research output

Toxicity of essential and non-essential oils against the chewing louse

The toxicity of six plant essential oils to the chewing louse, Bovicola (Werneckiella) ocellatus collected from donkeys, was examined in laboratory bioassays. The oils examined were: tea-tree (Melaleuca alternifolia), lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), peppermint (Mentha piperita), eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus Labillardiere), clove bud (Eugenia caryophyllata) and camphor (Cinnamomum camphora). All except camphor oil showed high levels of toxicity, with significant dose-dependent mortality and an LC50 at concentrations of below 2% (v/v). Hundred percent mortality was achieved at concentrations of 5–10% (v/v). Two essential oil components: eugenol and (+)-terpinen-4-ol showed similar levels of toxicity. The data suggest that these botanical products may offer environmentally and toxicologically safe, alternative veterinary pediculicides for the control of ectoparasitic lice.

Volume
93
Issue
2
Start page
831
End page
835
Publication date
Country

The effectiveness of faecal removal methods of pasture management to control the cyathostomin burden of donkeys

Background

The level of anthelmintic resistance within some cyathostomin parasite populations has increased to the level where sole reliance on anthelmintic-based control protocols is not possible. Management-based nematode control methods, including removal of faeces from pasture, are widely recommended for use in association with a reduction in anthelmintic use to reduce selection pressure for drug resistance; however, very little work has been performed to quantitatively assess the effectiveness of such methods.

Methods

We analysed data obtained from 345 donkeys at The Donkey Sanctuary (Devon, UK), managed under three different pasture management techniques, to investigate the effectiveness of faeces removal in strongyle control in equids. The management groups were as follows: no removal of faeces from pasture, manual, twice-weekly removal of faeces from pasture and automatic, twice-weekly removal of faeces from pasture (using a mechanical pasture sweeper). From turn-out onto pasture in May, monthly faecal egg counts were obtained for each donkey and the dataset subjected to an auto regressive moving average model.

Results

There was little to no difference in faecal egg counts between the two methods of faecal removal; both resulted in significantly improved cyathostomin control compared to the results obtained from the donkeys that grazed pasture from which there was no faecal removal.

Conclusions

This study represents a valuable and unique assessment of the effectiveness of the removal of equine faeces from pasture, and provides an evidence base from which to advocate twice-weekly removal of faeces from pasture as an adjunct for equid nematode control. Widespread adoption of this practice could substantially reduce anthelmintic usage, and hence reduce selection pressure for nematode resistance to the currently effective anthelmintic products.

Volume
7
Issue
48
Publication date
Country

The development of guidelines to improve dairy donkey management and welfare

Donkey milk is a valuable product for babies suffering from multiple-allergies and cosmetic production; therefore, new dairy donkey farms are opening around Europe. Little information is available for farmers on sustainable production of donkey milk, including animal welfare, milk production, and processing. Targeted dissemination of information on appropriate animal management would assist dairy donkey farmers in preventing welfare problems. This research project aims to develop guidelines on good practice principles for sustainable donkey milk production. Different steps were followed to develop the guidelines:

  1. Identification of key issues for dairy donkey welfare, analysing the results of previous project and the available scientific literature
  2. Systematic review research to select promising solutions for each issue included in the guidelines
  3. Stakeholder consultation, in order to increase scientific soundness and to enhance their acceptability throughout the sector
  4. Guidelines drafting and revisions by stakeholders
  5. Guidelines launch.

The guidelines ‘Dairy donkeys: good practice principles for sustainable donkey milk production’ were launched in December 2017. They include suggestions derived from scientific literature and/or reported by internationally recognised experts. The guidelines provide clear and helpful advice on good animal management practices for anyone interested in donkey milk production. They comprise the following chapters:

  • Responsibilities
  • Feed and water
  • Housing and management
  • Donkey health care
  • Humane killing
  • Appropriate behaviour
  • Milking procedures.

The guidelines, translated in different languages (Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Greek and Chinese Mandarin) are freely available online.

The guidelines “Dairy donkeys: good practice principles for sustainable donkey milk production” are freely available online in six languages.

The guidelines provide clear and helpful advice on good animal management practices for anyone interested in donkey milk production.

The guidelines include suggestions derived from scientific literature and/or reported by internationally recognised experts.

Volume
18
Issue
1
Start page
189
End page
193
Publication date

Statistical assessment of risk for the clinical management of equine sarcoids in a population of equus asinus

Logistic regression analysis was applied to data from a population of donkeys to obtain statistical models estimating the risk of equine sarcoid. Two models were constructed and compared. The group model was derived using the prevalence of animals with sarcoids in groups, classified according to the explanatory variables gender, age at first exposure (considered as age at entry to the population), duration of exposure, and gender by duration of exposure as an interaction. The subject model was derived from individual animal data and consisted of the factor gender with the covariates age at first exposure and duration of exposure. Age at first exposure was represented in the model by linear and quadratic terms, and as an interaction with duration of exposure. Both models provided a good approximation to the observed data. The analyses identified young male donkeys with short duration of exposure as being at highest risk. We concluded that risk assessment using the group model could be used effectively in the clinical management of sarcoids in the population of donkeys. Frequent examination of high risk groups might allow early diagnosis, therapeutic intervention and improved animal welfare.

Volume
26
Issue
2
Start page
87
End page
85
Publication date
Country

Spatial cognition and perseveration by horses, donkeys and mules in a simple A-not-B detour task

We investigated perseveration and detour behaviour in 36 equids (Equus caballus, E. asinus, E. caballus x E. asinus) and compared these data to those of a previous study on domestic dogs (Canis familiaris). The animals were required to make a detour through a gap at one end of a straight barrier in order to reach a visible target. After one, two, three or four repeats (A trials), the gap was moved to the opposite end of the barrier (B trials). We recorded initial deviations from the correct solution path and the latency to crossing the barrier. In the A trials, mules crossed the barrier significantly faster than their parental species, the horses and donkeys. In the B trials, following the change of gap location, all species showed a reduction in performance. Both dogs and horses exhibited significant spatial perseveration, going initially to the previous gap location. Donkeys and mules, however, performed at chance level. Our results suggest that hybrid vigour in mules extends to spatial abilities.

Volume
16
Start page
301
End page
305
Publication date
Country

Social relations in a mixed group of mules, ponies and donkeys reflect differences in equid type

Donkeys and mules are frequently kept as companion animals for horses and ponies, with these different equids often being considered a homogenous group. However, the extent to which domestic equids form inter-specific bonds and display similar social behaviour when living in a mixed herd has not previously been studied. Here we compare the social organization of these three (sub)species when housed together, providing the first systematic analysis of how genetic hybridization is expressed in the social behaviour of mules. A group of 16 mules, donkeys and ponies was observed for 70 h and preferred associates, dominance rank and the linearity of the group’s hierarchy was determined. The different equids formed distinct affiliative groups that were ordered in a linear hierarchy with ponies as the most dominant, mules in the middle ranks and donkeys in the lowest ranks. Within each equid subgroup, the strength of the hierarchy also varied. Thus in the present study, the three (sub)species displayed different social organization and levels of dominance and preferred to associate with animals of the same equid type, given the opportunity. These results suggest that different domestic equid (sub) species display variations in social behaviour that are likely to have a strong genetic basis.

Publication date
Country
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