Dear Donkey...

From a vet's perspective, donkeys are very similar to horses in many respects. However, there are some important differences that go beyond the obvious things that anyone can see from across the paddock.

Donkeys tend to have quite different characters to horses. While horses tend to have a strong "flight" reaction when threatened, donkeys are much more likely to stand and "fight" - although their strategy tends to be one of passive resistance. If you can lead a horse to water, but not make it drink, you may get stuck at stage one with a donkey.

The ancestors of domestic donkeys evolved to cope with harsh desert conditions, so grazing the lush pastures of the Manawatu can bring its own problems. Local donkeys may be overweight and prone to laminitis unless managed appropriately. 

When donkeys get sick, they need to be managed a little differently to horses. They can be less dramatic in their expression of pain, so even subtle changes in behaviour should be taken seriously.  If they go off their feed, they can get a dangerous condition called hyperlipaemia, especially if they are overweight to begin with, so nursing care is particularly important.

Giving drugs to donkeys is a little bit different too. They metabolise certain drugs more quickly than horses and are more sensitive to others, so there are donkey-specific doses for many drugs. It can also be more difficult to get a blood sample or inject into the jugular vein because the cutaneous colli muscle is much thicker than in a horse, and the vein is hidden under thick connective tissue.

Please give us a call to discuss routine care or if your donkey is sick.


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