The Donkey Sanctuary Chief Veterinary Adviser, Joe Collins explains how donkeys and horses differ.
Although donkeys share ancestral origins with horses, they have evolved differently over millions of years and are different. Domestication has done little yet to dull their natural instincts. Dullness (in the sense of apparent despondency) in donkeys is as serious as colic or long-bone fracture in horses: the dull donkey may already be suffering (but hiding) a terminal illness. We sometimes mistake 'stoicism' for indifference. The ‘stoic’ donkey will often mask severe signs of disease – it is not that he is not suffering. It is more that he doesn’t wish to show weakness to the world, as the latter is not a good survival strategy in the wild.
Species-specific differences between horses and donkeys are noticeably seen in behaviour, in physiological parameters and diagnostic markers of disease, in the specifics of drug metabolism and in anatomical variances of veterinary significance. Veterinary colleagues are often familiar with the range of clinical signs presented by truly sick horses. But the donkey presents a very different clinical picture when suffering from the same serious conditions. At The Donkey Sanctuary (TDS) we Take Donkeys Seriously and would like all equine vets to do likewise.
The Clinical Companion of the Donkey, 2018, edited by Linda Evans & Michael Crane MsRCVS is an invaluable resource. It and much more is available free-of-charge to professionals at: https://bray.news/li-for-professionals
The Donkey Sanctuary also have a range of free to access technical resources covering veterinary care, nutrition and behaviour: https://bray.news/li-technical-resources