Laminitis in Carol, the donkey

Last Monday my neighbor Sharon’s husband called and told me their donkey was laying down a lot and not walking well. Of course, my first thought was laminitis and I headed right over to check. Carol, like many donkeys, is not exactly halter trained but she was sore enough that she was willing to let us check her out. I could find no punctures or rocks in her feet but I did notice she had a good bit of separation of her hoof wall and dirt and mud had worked into the area. After cleaning her feet, Carol seemed more comfortable.
Carol was not real overweight but she did have the heavy crest so typical of insulin resistance. This combined with the green grass and nice sunny days made me pretty sure Carol was suffering from overeating high sugar grass. With a little maneuvering Dennis and I were able to get Carol and her donkey friend, Jack, up into a pen where their diet could be controlled. I wanted to get Carol on some anti oxidants and I was happy when she ate 5 sprouts and algae capsules out of my hand.
I also wanted to give Carol some herbs to help clear her Liver so it could function better in carbohydrate metabolism and improve its Traditional Chinese Medicine function of moving the blood that was stuck in the feet causing pain. Carol was not impressed enough with the herbs to eat them alone but she was happy to eat them with a small amount of feed. Carol had been on Safe and Sound which is a feed that is lower in sugar than grain but still not low enough for a horse, pony or donkey with laminitis caused by insulin resistance.
Once Carol was in the pen her diet was changed to Safe Starch forage from Triple Crown and coastal hay. After 24 hours Carol was feeling slightly better but she was still trembling some when she stood up for very long. I suggested that Sharon clean her feet again and remove any dirt that was packed in. This helped slightly but the next day Carol was still sore and laying down quite a bit.
Even without blood tests I was pretty sure Carol was insulin resistant so I explained to Sharon that Carol’s diet would have to be very tightly controlled and the coastal hay might still have too much sugar. I told her she could soak the hay to remove the sugar or feed chaffhaye that is a fermented alfalfa hay product that is very low sugar. Sharon elected to try the chaffhaye and after protesting initially about eating it both donkeys chowed down. Since each donkey weighed about 600 pounds, Sharon is feeding each of them 1 pound of Safe Starch Forage and 4 pounds of chaffhaye twice a day. This is giving them slightly over 1.5% of their body weight each day of low sugar but nutritious feed.
Within 24 hours of starting the tightly controlled diet, Carol was not only standing more but chasing Jack around the pen. I trimmed the separated wall off on her more sore right front hoof so dirt could not pack so easily into it. It looks like she is on the mend. I am so glad for the understanding I have gotten from the yahoo cushing’s forum about the importance of a tightly controlled diet for the insulin resistant horses. Looks like a grazing muzzle may be in Carol’s future. Madalyn

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About Madalyn Ward, DVM

This blog provides information based on my unique take on horse health and well being. The articles are based on experience of treating and working with horses for over 40 years. In most cases the articles are focused on an holistic approach to health and management. When conventional medicine offers good research or therapy, I share this information as well. Madalyn Ward, DVM

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