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Old 01-13-2009 01:51 AM   #1
whistler49
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Default Help desperately needed for foundered donkeys

I need some help and advice for 2 donkeys we purchased last year under false information from their owner....the donkeys--standard size-mother aged 15, and son aged 12 yrs--are extremely overweight and we found out from our vet they had been badly foundered before we bought them as a gift for my father. When we went and looked at them the owner told us the huge crests of fat they had hanging on either side of their necks and huge pads/lumps of fat all over their back was normal= as that was where healthy donkeys stored their fat to carry them over in lean times of food supply. We were taken hook, line and sinker---but at least the donkeys are in a better environment with us. We have had regular farrier care since we got them and their hooves are finally starting to get back to normal-or at least as normal as they can be. They have healthy growth and their soles are looking good now.

The problem is how to get their weight under control--no matter what we feed them we cannot get the weight off them--they are on 2 flakes of timothy hay in the morning and 2 flakes at night-hay works out to about 12 to 15 lbs a day total. They also get a few apples each day from my Dad--we found out he has been slipping them the odd flake at lunch time as well as he feels sorry for them when they bray at him...aaaarrrggghhh!!!!!

Are we feeding them the wrong hay? Too much? They are pretty sedentary in their paddock=have to chase them to get them to move at all==any help or suggestions would be greatly appreciated....

Last edited by whistler49; 01-13-2009 at 01:56 AM. Reason: add wording
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Old 01-13-2009 02:00 AM   #2
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Is that 2 flakes each morning and night, or do they share those 2 flakes??

I had the care of 2 mini donkeys for a couple of years, they just moved to a new home this past summer. When I had them they were fed 1 flake in the morning to share between the 2 of them, and 1 flake at night to share. During the winter they did get a little extra to help keep them warm, but not much. If they went out on the pasture at all it was kept to a short time, and then they were fed less hay. These 2 guys had a the use of the ring (large ring) all the time, and they would quite often play together. Then other times I would chase them around the ring, with my horses, so that they would get more exercise. My horses also helped to get them moving as my 4 year old thought they were a good chew toy (especially since his neck was longer than their back legs, so they couldn't land a kick when he was biting them on the bum!) which would get them moving around too.

Do your donkeys have any toys to play with?? My guys loved to play with toys, balls, ropes, anything...but they are younger than your 2. Can you spread the hay around the pen so that they have to cover some ground to get it? This could increase the time it takes them to eat everything, which would help to keep them from being hungry/bored. Definitely curtail the extra flake of hay at lunch, the boys always brayed when someone came near the barn in hopes of getting food, you just have to convince your Dad to do something other than feed them when he goes out to visit (maybe brush them, or just hang out with them and pet them??). They are not stupid animals, they will happily train their owner to feed them on demand! lol! All I can think of is giving them minimal hay, but try and find things to keep them occupied so they don't get bored and try and increase their exercise (take them for walks like you would a dog??)
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Old 01-13-2009 02:09 AM   #3
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Default Donkeys

Thanks for your reply--the donkeys share 2 flakes morning and night--we had thought about turning them in with the horses during the day=the only problem is the horses (5 of them) will put the run to the donkeys pretty much steady for the day---we can give it a try though and see how it works. They don't play at all, are not interested in anything that isn't edible and don't really care much for any extra handling. The mom isn't bad but the son would sooner be left alone....they were minimally handled when we got them-it was either us or the meat truck = they are sweet animals but boy talk about a learning curve...
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Old 01-13-2009 02:39 AM   #4
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You might have a thyroid problem. Have you had blood pulled?
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Old 01-13-2009 02:50 AM   #5
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Default donkeys

No haven't done that--when the vet saw them last year he said they had been badly foundered--that is all he remarked on. What would a thyroid issue present itself as?
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Old 01-13-2009 03:01 AM   #6
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If the horses will keep the donkeys moving, I would turn them out with the horses for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening, and gradually extend that time, at least until the horses quite running them around. At that point, you can leave them out with the horses all the time and they still will probably move around more than they are currently.

Oh, and actually, what they told you about the fatty deposits on the sides of the standard donkeys is correct. Though your donkey's deposits may have been overly large, lol. But yeah, they do have those odd looking fatty thingys hanging on their sides to some extent. That is normal. Just the size of them may not have been.
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Old 01-13-2009 03:45 AM   #7
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I agree with Laura, if you can turn them out with the horses, just make sure it is supervised turn out to begin with. But, I would separate them to feed...unless you can figure out a way to feed the horses so that the donkeys can't get any extra...the boys I cared for could chase my horses off their hay (they'd just back towards them and let the hooves start flying, my horses would high tail it out of there pretty quick to avoid being kicked), even when I made alterations to my feeding bins to try and keep the donkeys out, they still got at the hay, they cut off their air supply to do it, but they got food! My guys always looked chunky too, but I could easily feel their ribs, so I came to accept their pot belly look as normal (they were on a regular worming program), they also had the fatty deposits that you described. The only issue we really had was that one of them (when I first started caring for them) had an issue with a recurring abcess, but once I got his food amounts figured out, and got him off the alfalfa/grass mix hay, the abcessess stopped.
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Old 01-13-2009 04:52 AM   #8
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I'd say the first step is running some bloods to find out the cause of the laminitis and founder in more detail than just that they are fat. I suspect you are over feeding them but it might be more complicated than that.

An excellent source of information on feeding at risk horses (and therefore it'll be the closest info you get for donkeys) is Katy Watt's site, www.safergrass.org . Katy is very cutting edge and it isn't uncommon for vets to not be nearly as up on the current research as Katy is because she is doing a lot of testing and working with vets and farriers with this information.

Katy will automatically recommend you get the hay tested for sugar levels (sugar is colourless so looking at your hay will tell you nothing about the value of it to your animals.). In the meantime, you could soak your hay according to the instructions on her website to reduce the sugar content and hopefully get their weight down that way. It isn't a forever diet but an emergency diet as you are washing away good stuff as well as the sugar.

NO APPLES. Do what it takes to stop your father from feeding them any extras and that means no apples, no carrots, no sugary treats. Period.

Add magnesium to their diets. I've never found any sources that indicate you can feed too much magnesium and it can be very helpful in aiding in weight loss in cresty horses and ponies. A handful of soaked low sugar beet pulp to hide it in is probably sufficient and safe. Keep the extras as small as possible but definately aim at getting the magnesium into them. Many horses don't like the taste so you might not find it easy to do. Do your best.

Have them tested for mineral levels. Between the hay testing and blood panel for mineral levels, you may have enough information to get these guys on their way to recovery.

Do not let them be exposed to steroids (there is a dex test (someone correct me if I'm using a wrong term. I'm half asleep typing this and I keep thinking things sound weird but I can't figure out if they are the wrong words or not.) that is sometimes recommended to test for insulin levels and it will cause founder so don't let the vet do this one. Not sure how progressive your vet is.).

Get them exercising. If it is unsafe for them to be in with the horses, then they need to be hand walked (I believe the ideal minimum is 30 min three times a week). If they are safe with the horses but just irrritated and moving, then let them work eachother for you.

Another fantastic resource that is often overlooked because of the name of it is the equinecushingsgroup at yahoo. It isn't just for cushings horses and as a farrier, I found more useful information on that site than I have from most vets as many of those owners have already made all the mistakes and learned from them. Take advantage and browse through the articles there.

While alfalfa can often be a lower sugar hay, it can also be a founder source for some horses and the research hasn't figured out why yet. Look through safergrass.org and it will explain all of this. While the site can be overwhelming at first, the information there is pure gold.

Good luck
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Old 01-13-2009 11:53 AM   #9
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kaydence--you hit the nail on hte head with just about EVERYTHING I had wanted to say as I was reading this post. So I 2nd your ideas and sugestions!!!!
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Old 01-13-2009 01:27 PM   #10
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Simply; the thyroid controls metabolism and all that that entails.

Pull some blood to check ALL thyroid levels, not just T4 AND check nutrient levels in the blood and everything else Kay suggested.

Do some research and educate yourself so you can decipher all the data you collect and make the best choices.
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