The Dangers of Obesity in Donkeys

Donkeys evolved from the desert. Donkeys living in the U.S.A. are being over fed and fed the wrong foods. Once the neck crest breaks over nothing can be done to repair the neck. Insulin resistance, laminitis and soon death. If you rescue a donkey with this abuse, get a donkey vet fast.

The donkey must live on a dry pasture or paddock for the majority of their life. If we feed the wrong foods such as alfalfa hay, apples, pears, cookies, oats, breads, or munching all day on grass, brush and trees we will see this in our donkeys neck. Not to mention death. Death comes next as the donkey evolved from the desert, the donkey was created to live on low sugar/protein hay, clean water.  Round bales for the donkey will cause this too! Hay should be measured and controlled as the donkey evolved from the desert.

Laminitis is a condition in which there is inflammation in the laminae of the foot that connect the pedal bone to the hoof wall. This can progress to rotation or sinking of the pedal bone within the foot. The cause is not fully understood and many factors are involved but obese animals are more prone to develop the disease.”

Equine Metabolic Syndrome: Overweight donkeys often develop a fat, crest neck and fat pads around their tail base. When this occurs the donkey can develop a metabolic disease known as ‘Equine Metabolic Syndrome’. This causes insulin resistance and increased levels of blood glucose (blood sugar) in the blood stream. In equids this can lead to recurrent episodes of laminitis or founder. This disease involves inflammation of the white lining or laminar junctions of the feet, extreme foot pain and difficulty walking and chronic abscesses. In severe cases this is death for the donkey.


Select What Is Cushings

Hyperlipaemia is a condition in which triglycerides (fats) are released into the circulation which can result in organ failure and death unless treated rapidly. The early signs of dullness and reduced appetite can be difficult to detect. Hyperlipaemia can be triggered by anything that causes a reduction in food intake e.g. stress, transport, dental disease.

Causes of hyperlipaemia

A number of risk factors have been identified as contributing to this condition. It is known that a female donkey is at higher risk than a male, especially when there are high energy demands such as if she is pregnant or lactating. Overweight and obese animals are at higher risk than those in average condition but even thin donkeys are at risk. Donkeys that have lost significant weight in the preceding weeks should be monitored carefully as they are at a much higher risk of developing this disease. When managing your donkey’s weight, care should be taken not to crash diet as this will put your donkey at risk.

Stress will cause a donkey to reduce its feed intake and can be brought on by many stressors such as:

  • Pain
  • Removal or death of buddy
  • Diet Change
  • Transport
  • Living With Another Animal Who Is A Predator
  • Bad weather
  • Sickness
  • Forced To Live A Life With Constant Stress And Abuse

Action Plan To Lose Weight – DO NOT STOP FEEDING THE DONKEY.

  1. Build Pastures made to exercise, a track
  2. Donkey lives on a dry paddock
  3. Ask your vet to do blood work insulin resistance or cushings
  4. Have the dentist come out and examine the donkey’s teeth
  5. Engage in an exercise routine
  6. Take Your Donkey For Walks
  7. Make Sure Your Donkey Has Toys and A Buddy To Play With
  8. Clean Water
  9. Test Your Hay 10% Or Lower In Sugar and Protein – Measure for portion control.
  10. No treats, sweets, bread, alfalfa, oats

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Donkeys Neck Should Never Look Like This

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Mammoth donkeys have the widest white line of any donkey. Its a fact.  Keeping a Mammoth donkey healthy living in the wet and green Pacific Northwest is a challenge and is most difficult. Donkeys hooves need to stay dry. Our Mammoth Donkey stands 16’2 hands tall at the withers he weighs 1100 pounds and he is not fat. His hooves are tiny for his massive body and narrow unlike the horse his weight is compressed different into the hoof wall.

All of our donkeys and horses are on a regular farrier schedule six weeks in the spring and summer and seven in the fall and winter. During the summer of 2019 we experienced something we have never experienced white line disease eating our Mammoth donkeys hoof. 

What is white line disease?

At first we thought it was an abscess so we began soaking and treating for the abscess. After three days I new it was not an abscess. The vet was called. The vet started picking at the bottom of the foot and she kept picking until the all of the rotted hoof was gone on the front of the toe. 

Saving a Mammoth donkey from any serious hoof injury takes a team effort.  The vet must be experienced in donkey behavior, drugs and care. The vet leads the farrier and the owner.  We are blessed to have our vet as she saved Rio’s life. The first three weeks were critical as Rio needed to rest and yet he needed to stay with his donkey friends and keep walking. The big worry was how much weight the other front foot would have to take as laminitis from stress and weight is a real concern. Padding hurry and get the padding on.

When the donkey is put in a stall for rest it can be the end of life in many cases for donkeys. I personally will never choose to put my donkey in a stall without the ability to keep walking. Why? Donkeys get depressed. Donkeys give up.  Way too many donkeys are sent to heaven due to this critical mistake all in trying to help the donkey.

If the donkey gets depressed and stops getting up and interacting with his buddys he or she will simply give up and not try to get up any more. Next the donkey is sent to heaven as it is the only other option for most vets.  Truly tears for all the donkeys who have died from the wrong form of care. Donkeys are deep, deep thinkers and have serious emotional distress when forced to spend any time alone. 

We must keep the equine healthy and not over working and yet have peace and balance.  The buddy donkey is always important including if the donkey needs to go to the hospital. Take the buddy with the donkey. 

My husband Scott and I worked every day to make sure the temporary hoof wrap was working and Rio had no rubs. No equine boots fit a donkey perfectly at this time. So we must be creative for the donkey. Perhaps one day businesses will build a shoe and a boot for a donkey. I reached out with our business Donkey Whisperer Farm ® begging for a boot to be made, offered to support and help sell it. I was told there is not enough money in donkeys.

Here is a video of Rio wearing the Soft Ride Boots which were way to big. We had to build internal boots and prevent the rub. We checked for rubs and changed the boots every day for three and half weeks. Finally we could have the rubber clog shoes put on Rio. Whew, we made it. Thank you Jesus!!!!

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God bless you and your family two and four-legged!

Melody & Scott Johnson

A Mammoth Donkey Wearing Rubber Clogs

The best gift we can give one another is a beautiful memory. Life is fragile and precious, we will never know when it is our last day or our loved ones. Enjoy your life as you will never be in this exact place ever again.

God Bless You And Your Family Two and Four-Legged!

Melody Johnson




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The Donkey Whisperer Farm ® proudly presents a free educational video “Bringing Your Donkey Home”


1.Have a Plan

  1. Donkey Meets Human
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Bringing Your Donkey Home DONKEY CARE

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Melody & Scott Johnson


Donkey Hoof Abscess Healed

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Donkey Halter Made To Fit The Donkey Not The Horse