Today is World Donkey Day! As an equine-loving practice, today is a great opportunity for us to spotlight this underappreciated member of the equine family. Donkeys are unique in their nutritional, housing, social, and behavioural needs, and are often grossly misunderstood. Keep reading for 5 critical facts every donkey owner should know!
Love for the Long-Eared
5 Critical facts every donkey owner needs to know
1. Shun the sweets
This is the #1 issue we see in donkey husbandry.
Donkeys are extremely sensitive to sugar. Unless directed by a veterinarian, donkeys should never be fed grain, and only occasional treats such as carrots or apples. Access to sweet grass should be limited, and approximately 75% of their diet should be straw, not hay. Straw allows natural foraging behaviour and fibre intake without adding excess calories. Donkeys who consume too much sugar are at risk of painful and/or dangerous conditions including laminitis, founder, hyperlipidemia, and metabolic disorders.
2. Smart, not stubborn Despite their misleading reputation, donkeys are actually incredibly intelligent, loving creatures. Their perceived 'stubborn'; nature is only relative to horses, who developed different thought processes and conflict approaches through their evolution. In comparison, donkeys are small-group animals who lack herd mentality, and instead focus on self-preservation with every decision they make. This often translates to more resistance or time spent thinking when asked to perform a task. Patience and respect are the best tools for successful interaction between donkeys and their humans.
3. Donkey differences Other ways in which donkeys differ from horses include:
● Longer ears (to both better dissipate heat in their native desert habitats, and to increase hearing range while on alert for predators);
● Non-water-proof coat (donkeys do not produce the oils necessary for adequate
protection from the rain, and should always have shelter available);
● Propensity to hide pain (donkeys are incredibly stoic and typically do not show signs of
pain until their condition, such as colic, is severe);
● Vulnerability to abscesses (as desert animals, their hooves are not evolved for our
4. Bonding brayers While not herd animals like horses, donkeys often ‘pair bond’ with other donkeys (and sometimes other animals). These bonds are very strong, and separation can be so stressful as to cause illness or even death. Whether bonded or not, donkeys should be with at least one other donkey whenever possible, as they do best when housed with those of their own species.
5. Vet care is still vital! While there are many differences between donkeys and horses, the basic veterinary needs are very similar. Donkeys require regular vaccinations, hoof trimmings, dental floats, and veterinary exams. They feel pain and distress as with other mammals, and deserve just as much attention as our shorter-eared equine friends.
If you are a TRVS client with a donkey in need of a vet, contact us today!
Written By Dr. Carleigh