DONKEY HEALTH & FOALING FAQS 

My donkey appears to be losing its hair, and has bald spots. What can I do?
It is a common occurrence, in the spring, for donkeys to rub their hair off in some places, especially over the back or croup, or around the head. This is normal and the hair will usually grow back in very nicely. If the donkey is rubbing excessively there are several things you can do.

  1. Worm your donkey to make sure that parasites are not the problem.
  2. Go to your farm supply store, or vet supply store and purchase a betadine soap solution or bar. Give your donkey a bath with this soap, being sure to thoroughly rinse off the soap solution and help your donkey dry off.

My donkey has little round spots of hair missing on its nose and other spots on its head.
It could be ringworm. It is best to have a veterinarian check this out. To treat ringworm, you can cover the infected area with Crest Toothpaste. One or two applications usually stops the ringworm, and you will notice the hair fill in again.

My donkey has lost some teeth. What is happening?
Your donkey is probably about two years of age, and is losing its baby teeth. New ones will grow in.

What immunizations should I give my donkey in the spring?
Recommended vaccinations that should be given in April or early May are:

  1. A three-way vaccination. This includes protection against tetanus, as well as, sleeping sickness (Eastern & Western Encephalomyelitis).
  2. A rhino/flu vaccination, which includes protection against influenza & rhinopneumonitis ( a cold virus).
  3. Jennets in foal should receive:
    • a three-way vaccination
    • a rhino/flu vaccination
    • a pneumabort K vaccination on the 5th, 7th, and 9th month of gestation.
    • be wormed on a regular basis until the 10th month of gestation.

All donkeys require a series of two vaccinations, four weeks apart to get the initial immunization for the tetanus/sleeping sickness shot, as well as for the rhino/flu shot. After that they will require a booster shot each year for the three-way vaccination. The rhino/flu vaccination only lasts for two months and should be repeated before exposure to other animals at shows or breeding farms.

As always, check with your local veterinarian to confirm what vaccinations are needed in your specific location.

When and how can I worm my donkey?
We recommend Ivomec products as they are very effective. It is good to switch products periodically, so you will have to find an alternate.

Your donkeys should be wormed in March, June, August, and November (or after it freezes). Give worming dosage according to package recommendations. One lady we know of puts the worming paste or liquid on Ritz crackers and her donkeys line up for their "treat"! Bread works just as well. If you are using paste, be sure to watch your donkeys for a while to make sure that they do swallow the paste.

Our foal has diarrhea, what do we do?
First, take the foals temperature and then check with your veterinarian and describe the symptoms to him/her. Next, check the jennets udder to see if the foal is still nursing. If the foal is droopy and the jennets udder full, you may have a problem which requires immediate veterinary attention. If the foal has diarrhea, but seems to be frisky, then give it 10-20cc of Pepto Bismal or Kaopectate two times a day for three to four days.

As well, it is important to get fluids into the foal. Milk out the jennet and using a 10cc syringe squirt the milk onto the back of the foals tongue. Hopefully, the foal will show some interest in the milk.

You may also mix up a weak solution of electrolytes in warm water and give that to the foal, in addition to the milk. The electrolytes give the foal extra nourishment with vitamins. It is also important for a sick foal to be in a dry barn, and out of the weather. Hot weather can be just as hard on a foal as cold weather. As well, confine the sick foal and its mother so it doesn't waste energy following, or searching for, its mother in the pasture.

A little care and attention will keep your foal alive and healthy, as they are normally quite vigorous.

Now that your Jennet has been bred
After your jennet has been bred, check her back to the jack at 15-20 days after the last breeding date. After foaling, jennets have a foal heat about 9-12 days later. It is best to wait to breed her on her second cycle, which will occur 35-40 days after the foaling date. Sixty days after breeding, you can have your veterinarian externally ultrasound your jennet to be certain that she is in foal. Your jennets nutritional needs are going to be different now that she is in foal. Continue to feed her a well balanced diet of quality hay and minerals. Your mineral supplement should contain calcium, phosphorus and selenium, as well as other minerals suitable for equines. You can purchase such a mineral supplement in block for or in a loose mix. Take care to buy a mineral that is suitable for equines only. Non-equine minerals can be harmful to your donkey, and in a pregnant jennet may cause her to abort her foal. Continue to worm your jennet on a normal schedule. Check with your veterinarian who will be able to advise you on what type of worming medication is suitable for a pregnant jennet, as some are not safe to use in the last two months of gestation. Regular hoof care is imperative at this time, as your pregnant jennet will be carrying an increasingly heavier load. Try to have her feet done a month prior to foaling, so it does not need to be done while she has a new foal at side. Exercise should still be maintained throughout your jennet's pregnancy.

Neck TagsAt Circle C we use neck tags and microchips to identify our weanlings.

Observe your foals
Observing your new foal is the surest way of giving it a head start on life. There are many things you should be checking your new foal for to ensure you catch any problems in the early stages. New foals are susceptible to numerous diseases, and their natural curiosity can result in injuries. The most important part of your day should be the few minutes you spend observing your jennets and foals.

One of the surest signs that there is a problem is when your foal is not nursing. A foal should be nursing about 18 times a day. If your jennet has a hot, full udder (which may or may not be leaking) it is a sure sign that something is wrong.

Jennets with foals should have their udder checked once in the morning when they go out to pasture and once in the late afternoon when they come in to feed. A healthy foal should have the jennets udder mostly milked out. In the hot summer it is especially important to check the udders of all nursing jennets, as foals can get heat diarrhea and quickly dehydrate.

If there seems to be a problem, the first thing to do is to milk out the jennet. It is not as hard as it may seem. Make sure you have a container for the milk, get your fingers damp, and starting from the top of the teat stroke down gently, but firmly until you find the milk. It may take a few strokes to get the milk flowing. It is much easier to do this if you have someone holding the jennets halter, and reassuring her. If she becomes agitated, you may have to use hobbles to facilitate the milking out.

When the jennet is milked out, the next step is to feed the foal. Using a 10cc syringe, gently squirt the milk into the foal's mouth, rubbing its gums with your finger to make it swallow. At the next feeding, follow the milk with an electrolyte solution, which has vitamins and other good things for the foal. You can purchase electrolytes at your local farm feed store. Mix one cup of warm water with one-tablespoon electrolytes until dissolved. Use the same technique as you did with the milk, to get the foal to take the solution. Always take your foals temperature, and consult with a veterinarian.

Also, remember that just because a foal is nursing, it does not automatically mean everything is all right. Check to make sure the foal is gaining weight. Your foal's general behavior should also be checked. Foals are quite social and will usually play with one another. If a foal is lying down during a time when the others are socializing, you should investigate to make sure it is not injured or ill.

If you notice a foal standing with it's head down and ears drooping, it probably needs attention.

A healthy foal should have a soft coat. Dull hair can indicate an internal parasite problem.

Some symptoms are more easily observed. A foal with wet or stained buttocks usually indicates diarrhea; if there is nasal discharge, a respiratory infection; lameness indicates an injury. Again, consult a veterinarian if any of these symptoms occur, so that your foal can be properly treated.

Why won't my jennet let her new foal nurse?
If you have jennets foaling, sooner or later you are going to encounter the problem of a jennet not letting her foal nurse. Usually what has occurred is that at some point after the foal has been delivered, it has waited to long between nursing, and the jennet's bag has filled completely. When the new foal tries to nurse, perhaps butting his nose against the bag, the tender, swollen udder is hurt, and the jennet decides she does not need the aggravation. So now what to do?

Partially milk out the jennet to make her more comfortable and then let the foal nurse the rest of the bag out. It is important to make sure the foal nurses, so that the jennet realizes that it is not going to hurt. That may mean that you have to help the foal out until the jennet will stand peacefully.

Keep an eye on the pair for the first few days to ensure that the scenario does not repeat itself.

Bottle feeding your foal
One of the things that you should be prepared for is that eventually, you may have to bottle feed one of your foals. If you are not properly prepared it can be a nerve-wracking experience. Here are some guidelines:

You only need to express two ounces of colostrum from each jennet, otherwise you will rob her foal of its share. To build up a sufficient supply, you may want to take colostrum from each of your jennets after foaling.

One of the most important things is to have some colostrum stored in your freezer for emergencies. It is very easy to collect as you simply milk out the jennet as soon as possible after foaling.

Do not wait more than twelve hours after the jennet has foaled to collect the colostrum, as the antibody level in it begin to decrease. When you have expressed the colostrum, transfer to a sterile, labeled container, and freeze. Colostrum will last up to 18 months in the freezer.

To use the stored colostrum, thaw in a container of warm water.

Never use your microwave, as it will destroy all the antibodies in the colostrum. Based on a twenty-pound foal, it will need a minimum of six ounces to receive sufficient immunity. After receiving the colostrum, the next step will be to supplement the foal with undiluted goat's milk or an equine formulated milk replacer. Your local farm supply store should carry the milk replacer.

As for the question of how much to feed your foal, the following guideline, from Sue Myers article in Asset magazine is excellent. A foal must receive 10-20% of its body weight in milk daily. Once that has been calculated, then the milk can be divided into equal feedings for the day. A newborn foal should be fed every one to two hours for the first few days. Change to every four hours for the next six weeks, changing after that to every six hours until weaning.

If possible, weigh the foal to ensure that it continues to grow.

Distinguishing the premature foal
The usual length of gestation for a jennet is 12 months, however as all jennets are individual, gestation can vary between 11 and 13 months. How can you tell if a jennet has delivered a premature foal.

The foal may have a lower than average birthweight, and general weakness. It may not be able to stand well, and have poor sucking reflexes. A premature foal will not be able to maintain a steady body temperature have ears that droop downward, or backward, and not be able to establish a normal relationship with the jennet. Other indicators can be a deep red tongue, and very silky skin.

The internal problems that a premature foal is noted for are poor lung tissue expansion and reduced oxygenation, nonfunctional gastrointestinal tracts, and subnormal temperatures. While some foals will succumb due to the collapse of internal functions, it is possible, with proper care to have the premature foal survive.

Most importantly, it is essential to elevate and maintain a foals body temperature. Your local veterinarian may have an incubator that can be accessed for this purpose, or a well-bedded stall in a heated barn can do.

Ensure that the foal receives colostrum as soon as possible, and no later than six hours after birth. You will most likely have to milk out the jennet and either use a syringe to feed the foal, or a bottle if it has good sucking reflexes. Do not feed milk replacer or goat's milk until the foal has had the colostrum. Try to keep the foal active. When feeding, try to have it standing. The more you can foster normal behavioral patterns, the more likely it is that a premature foal will survive.

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