Hyperlipemia in a population of aged donkeys: description, prevalence and potential risk factors


Hyperlipemia is a common disorder of the donkey, with mortality rates of up to 80% reported. Such a poor prognosis makes prevention of this disorder or amelioration in the early stages crucial.


The objective of this study was to describe and determine the prevalence of hyperlipemia in a population of donkeys and to determine risk factors for development of the disease.


A total of 449 cases were investigated from a population of 3829 donkeys; donkeys were resident at The Donkey Sanctuary, a charity providing refuge for unwanted donkeys in the UK. Animals were selected on the basis of presence of clinical disease.


A retrospective case–control study design was used, and all donkeys presenting with hyperlipemia over a 4-year period were included. Each case was matched with 2 controls that had not suffered from hyperlipemia in the previous month. Multivariable analysis was carried out to determine risk factors.


A total of 449 clinical cases of hyperlipemia were reported with an associated mortality rate of 48.5%. Concurrent disease was present in 72% of donkeys and was the greatest risk factor (OR = 76.98); others included cardboard bedding (OR = 3.86), movement (OR = 3.94), weight loss (OR = 6.4), dental disease (OR = 1.73), and concentrate feeding (OR = 1.87).


This study shows that this population of donkeys in the UK often develops hyperlipemia, particularly in response to stress or primary illness, and provides useful insights in to health and management risk factors that may be addressed to decrease the risk of hyperlipemia both in the study population and in other similar donkey populations.

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