Like other equines, donkeys are susceptible to colic and other gastrointestinal diseases.
Due to their stoical nature they may not show very dramatic signs of pain, but could be suffering intensely.
So the key is for me to know my donkey and monitor it closely, things like changes in bowel movement or an unwillingness to eat could be subtle signs that my donkey is in pain, and it is best at this point for me to call the vet.
Colic is a symptom of abdominal pain, mostly in the gastrointestinal tract (such as the stomach, or intestine).
Symptoms of Colic in Donkeys.
Generally, donkeys tend to mask their pain and manage it, whether it is slight or chronic, so identifying whether or not my donkey has colic can be tricky.
A few things that can hint at the fact that my donkey has colic are:
- Self Isolation
- Lying down
- Lack of appetite
- Weight shifting, usually between the hind legs
- Rolling and pawing at the ground
- Fast breathing, rapid heart rate
- Brick red or pale gums or insides of eyelids
- Dry or tacky gums
- Lack of, or reduction in, the normal quantity of droppings
Hyperlipidemia is noticed in donkeys with colic, the heart rate is also an indicator of pain severity.
Related: Here is an article I wrote on are carrots good for donkeys?
Causes of Colic in Donkeys
- Sudden changes to diet can cause colic; reducing quality of feed, introducing too much grass or cereals. Dietary changes should be made gradually, over a period of 2-4 wweeks.
- Feeding my donkey with excessive treats can lead to colic.
- Inadequate or dirty supply of water.
- Swallowing non-food items such as plastic bags and ropes.
- Eating poisonous plants.
- Grazing on sandy pasture.
- Dental disease can cause colic, as failure to chew food properly can cause a blockage of the gut.
- Painful conditions can lead to colic.
How to prevent or treat colic in donkeys
With colic, prevention is always better than cure.
So the living conditions of my donkey can go a long way in preventing colic;
Ensuring my donkey doesn’t have access to non-food items is an easy and effective step to take.
Fencing off trees when fruiting to avoid excessive consumption of food.
Avoiding extremely stressful situations for my donkey.
A healthy equine gastrointestinal tract is achieved by providing continuous portions of food in moderation.
In treating colic, things like offering medication by myself can cause further harm so calling the vet is the safest option, and early treatment will make a big difference for my donkey.
Colic is always an emergency.
The vet will decide on the treatment to be administered based on my donkey’s diagnosis, and most likely offer pain killers.
Depending on their findings my donkey may also be given fluids via a nasogastric tube, or put on a drip – via a large vein in the neck.
In extreme cases, my donkey may need to be hospitalized, and as a companion I must go too; hospitalization can be very stressful for donkeys.
Certain types of colic may necessitate surgery, so my donkey will have to be transported to the hospital.
Surgeries carry high risk so there is a need to talk to the vet about the chances of success.
A severe case of colic can lead to Euthanasia – which will be the kindest thing I can do for my donkey at that point.
Also check out this article I wrote on the reason why donkeys bite people
Can donkeys get colic from carrots?
Carrots are a fantastic treat for donkeys, however feeding too much of it to my donkey is unhealthy, as it can upset the digestive track, leading to discomfort and colic.
So while it is endearing to offer treats to my donkey, I must remember that offering too many treats can cause obesity.
For carrot feeding, moderation is key. Feeding my donkey one or two carrots a day, according to equestrians, is better.
It is preferable to cut the carrots into strips and round disks to prevent choking and when my donkey is older, mashing will be applied to prevent dental damage.
Force feeding my donkey with carrots is not advisable, as not all donkeys like carrots.
Can donkeys get colic from grass?
Grazing on short pastures can increase the accumulation of sand, and cause sand colic.
Hay feeding, however, is a better method.
Donkeys have a tendency to move and graze, so I can try to emulate the natural environment of my donkey and offer appropriate and safe portions.
When grass recovers after a drought – breaking rain, the sugar it contains can ferment in the unprepared digestive tract of my donkey leading to colic.
Poisonous plants when consumed are dangerous.
Fencing off trees and poisonous shrubs are an effective way to prevent my donkey from serious abdominal pain.
Can donkeys get colic from too much stress?
Owing to their stoic nature, donkeys tend to hold the pain in, a lot.
A build up of stress can lead to colic and anxiety in my donkey.
Environmental changes should be made slowly and carefully to allow my donkey ease in to changes without becoming stressed.
Again, it is difficult to identify when a donkey is stressed so knowing my donkey will let me observe the signs given off.
Can donkeys get colic more than once?
Colic can possibly be repeated, this is known as Recurrent colic.
Recurrent colic is defined as three or more episodes of transient or prolonged colic over a period of months, a year or more.
Parasites, Gastric ulcers, Sand accumulation, Impactions, and colonic displacement can cause colic to occur repeatedly.
Can donkeys survive colic?
Survival in cases of colic is possible, except in severe cases where euthanasia is the only option.
However the surgical costs are high, and there are many risks.
With the right treatment, donkeys can survive and be well on their way.
One of such recoveries is recorded by SPANA (An international working animal charity that provides support such as emergency care, and aid to veterinary services).
Curing colic in donkeys – Maggie’s colic.
Maggie, a six year-old donkey was brought into SPANA’s center in Chemaia, Morocco, suffering from a bad case of colic ( abdominal pain).
Her owner, 46 year-old El Yousfi Abderahim grew worried once he realized that Maggie wasn’t her usual, healthy self:
‘Maggie never gets I’ll. This was the first time I saw her suffer and I could not do much, so I decided to rent a pickup to take her to SPANA the next day.’
SPANA’s vets examined her and found that she was dehydrated, with a very fast heart rate.
So she was hospitalized immediately and rehydrated by giving her fluids via a nasogastric tube, and painkillers.
One of the main cause of her colic was found to be parasites that were living in her intestines, so SPANA’s team treated the infestation, and after two weeks, she was well enough to go home.
Maggie is a valuable member of El Yousfi’s family, providing passenger transport and helping with ploughing, harvesting and collecting water from the local well.
She helps to support him, his wife, five children and one grandchild that all live with him.
To prevent Maggie from getting sick again in the future, SPANA’s vets advised El Yousfi to soak any barley she is fed in water, make sure she has regular dental care, and to treat against parasites every three months.
For a healthy bowel, moderation is required when giving food and treats. A clean environment, with clean water from various sources will help prevent colic.
With colic, prevention is better than cure so creating a conducive, healthy environment is a priority;
A sandy environment will not do my donkey a lot of good. Including fiber in the daily diet is essential.
Amount of hay and grass consumed should be controlled to maintain ideal body condition.
Fruits should be cut in a way that minimizes the risk of choking.
All feedstuff should be of high quality.