Recent clinical and post-mortem studies have documented dental disease as a major but often unrecognized, disorder of equids, including horses and donkeys. A study to investigate the prevalence of oral and dental disorders was performed, in two endangered breeds of donkeys: the Mirandês Donkey and the Zamorano-Leonés Donkey, through a prospective cross-sectional study of 800 donkeys, divided in to 7 age groups (ranging 0–34 years). Cheek teeth disorders were present in 82.8% of study donkeys, ranging from a prevalence of 29.6% in the <2.5 years old group to 100% in the >25 years old group. In addition 74% of donkeys suffered from incisor disorders, ranging from 56.8% in the youngest group to 90.3% in donkeys >25 years.
The study evaluated socio-economic data from individual owners (n=341), owning 86% of the study population (n=688 donkeys), including age, profession, level of education and previous knowledge of dentistry. Results highlighted their advanced age (65.3 years), and the extremely high percentage of owners without previous knowledge of donkey dentistry (97.1%) (331/341). Previous knowledge of dentistry was mentioned only by 2.9% of owners (10/341), mainly by owners with a higher level of education, with 80% (8/10) having 12 years of education or more. However, only two owners had provided previous treatment to their donkeys. It is important to mention that even these two owners had other animals without treatment, meaning that animals were treated when presenting with clinical signs of oral and dental disease and were not treated on a prophylactic basis.
This study highlights the importance of educational programmes focused on the prophylactic importance of donkey dentistry, especially when comparing prevalence of dental disorders in working donkeys and previous knowledge on dentistry.