This blogpost concerns Aitana’s current medical situation and unlike the usual posts on this blog, I am putting the information here for those currently advising.
Thanks to Donkey Sanctuary Sidmouth (apologies for very poor phone signal and frustrating lost calls) and Cecilio of Spanish Donkey Sanctuary for advice. The following is provided to help clarify the basic issues. To those involved: please use the Whatsapp and phone channels established rather than comment here on the blog. If any regular readers of the blog who keep equines have anything practical to add, do not hesitate to comment here, but this is mainly a consultation page rather than the usual type of blog post.
- Aitana is a six-year-old female Ruano donkey currently suffering from laminitis in her front hooves. She has also displayed rapid weight loss over a period of about six weeks. A blood sample taken today indicates viscous blood with a fatty layer which could indicate hypolipemia. The blood sample is being sent for analysis.
- The weight loss development follows a routine equine ‘flu and tetanus vaccination on 4/07/17 (Proteq Flu-Te batch L444086).
Following Aitana’s rapid weight loss, I asked the vet who administered the vaccination if there could be any connection between weight loss and the vaccine, as it seemed too much for coincidence. She said there is no such connection.My daughter did her own exploration of this issue and found a different story. The Horse and Hound correspondence linked here shows what happened to two horses after equine ‘flu/tetanus vaccine, who contracted acute laminitis within 24 hours. An elementary search brings up more examples. The connection is possibly an interesting one, needing proper explanation. However that doesn’t help the immediate concern which is the present condition of Aitana and how to address it.
- Aitana’s present shape and condition. This photo was taken this evening and the protruding bones can be seen clearly. Her head is lowered, which is her usual posture at present. I first began to notice something was different when she was losing an unusual amount of hair while I was grooming her, and then I realised that she was suffering rapid weight loss. This was about two weeks after the vaccination in July.
Her front hooves are tipped vertically at an angle that suggests clear laminitis. I began to wonder what was happening when she had difficulty walking downhill. This began in July, and was shortly after the vaccinations. I puzzled about it but could not understand the symptom at the time: I just thought she was being cautious after a stumble on a slope.
A blood sample was taken today which showed viscous blood with a white fatty substance floating on top. The laboratory has the sample now and their analysis is expected in two days. Hyperlipaemia is obviously a clear and possible danger here.
- 2017 pre-weight-loss photos of Aitana for comparison: This is how she appeared rolling in dust next to mother Matilde in May 2017. Note the full figure before her rapid weight loss which began in July.
And here is Aitana on 9 May 2017 in a video where she is taking an interest in the chickens. The video is mostly about chicken behaviour, but you can see the full figure of Aitana before her weight loss in July and August: it shows the contrast clearly.
- Diet. It should be noted that Aitana has continued to eat normally with the other donkeys during the period of weight loss. (Correction 17/08/17: I have just spotted the unscientific assumption in that statement. What I actually observe not the actual consumption, but simply Aitana having her head in the manger for the same period of time as her three companions until the feed is eaten. If she is eating more slowly or less energetically, they may be eating more of her share. Therefore I actually have no observational method for what she is eating! Separate feeding arrangements will be in place from today.)
Her excrement is normal and there is no obvious sign of worms. (She has been wormed with both Equimax and Maximec.) The donkeys have a diet of mainly straw with a very little sprinkling of alfalfa mixed into it for flavour. They have been given a handful of grain in the mornings only (never more than 250 gms per donkey) as I was advised this was good for digestion when they have a largely wheat straw diet. They have carrots and apples on a regular basis, mostly carrots: about two items per donkey each day. Since the laminitis was identified, no donkeys are getting any grain feed at all. Algarobas (carob beans) are plentiful here, but I discourage the donkeys from eating them except when we come across them when we are out walking, when the sugar content can be burnt up in walking.Addendum: I have just identified a diet contradiction here. I have cut out the small amount of grain feed (for all donks) as a response to Aitana’s laminitis, but this is reducing her protein intake which surely is not good if she has hyperlipaemia? I’m working in the dark here, and this is why Aitana needs a proper plan, rather than simply a course of painkillers.
- Current action. The present problems are being addressed as follows: EQzona painkiller (half sachet per morning and evening); vitamin injection last week, today, and one injection for next Sunday; blood sample for analysis, as mentioned already.
- Finally, the farrier is coming tomorrow to re-angle Aitana’s laminitic front hooves. The vet believes this is all that can be done and is now on holiday.
- I am concerned there is no action plan that addresses the possible hyperlipaemia, which now concerns me as the most potentially dangerous situation in this mix of problems.This is a very close donkey family and Aitana is a very valued part of it: I want to get all advice possible to help her recover.