First, I’d like to praise the Donkey Sanctuary Sidmouth and the Refugio del Burrito in Spain for their really kind support and concern regarding Aitana. Particular thanks to Nikki in Sidmouth for responding to enquiries from my daughter Alys (as I had been having phone signal problems earlier in the week); Cecilio from Refugio del Burrito, who has taken time to get involved with connecting people regarding Aitana while he is on an important donkey rescue assignment in north eastern Spain; and to Dorothea who Cecilio has put me in touch with in this province and is waiting to see this update so she might comment.
Add to this list the farrier Jacobo who has visited this morning. As with yesterday’s blog post, this is an update for all concerned, so that advice may be given on the latest information available. After the farrier’s visit this morning, we have at least some good news on Aitana’s laminitis problem. Jacobo has worked with my donkeys for three years and I trust his advice completely. The donkeys don’t always cooperate fully with him but he has great patience… and great physical strength to tame them! In fact he is so brilliant I want to put his business card on the blog:
Before Jacobo worked on Aitana he did a general trim of the other three donkeys. We had the usual problems with behaviour when they knew it was the farrier’s visit, and Morris was the badly behaved boy today, breaking away from the lead rope and setting everyone off galloping around the top level. I had already told Jacobo that Aitana was laminitic. He pointed at her, as the donks were throwing up dust all around us like a scene from the Ben Hur chariot race in Rome, and said, “That’s not serious laminitis: see how she is stretching out her legs!”
Jacobo started with a very useful practical advice session on what was involved with the bones and tendons and was almost delivering a one-to-one hoof care tutorial, as he inspected Aitana’s hooves. He speaks Castellano with a very rich Valenciano accent, so that I am almost fooled into thinking I can finally comprehend Valenciano! As we had already seen Aitana galloping a few minutes before, everything Jacobo says is reassuring and geared to solving the problem rather than raising the alarm about the laminitis.
Jacobo’s session with Aitana began by measuring the angle at which her front hooves could stand being elevated. The instrument is a “palanca de extension digital” (no idea what this is in English!) For those technical experts reading this, the angle was 43 degrees on both the right and left untrimmed laminitic hooves.
The hoof trim was designed to take off a small amount of the hoof wall so that it would not put too much pressure on the tendons as they re-adjust to the new hoof angle. Jacobo says we will do a second trim in about two months and I should send him photos of her front hooves to check that everything is going to plan.
Otherwise, he could find no particular hoof or leg problems and he said the incident had been caught in time for Aitana to recover, but she is susceptible to laminitis (some are more susceptible than others) and will always need close observation.
Contrary to my present field arrangements, where the slopes to level 2 have been closed off, due to Aitana’s difficulty descending to join the others, Jacobo said I should reopen the slopes and let her do as she wants. The new hoof angle will give her opportunity to begin flexing the tendons at her own pace.
On the medication, he was surprised I had been advised to keep Aitana on EQzona twice daily into a second week. (I had just ordered 16 more sachets from the farmacia for delivery on Monday.) He said equines should only be given that for a short period because it can cause stomach problems. (I think the word was Spanish for ulcers but I don’t know for sure.) He said change to Danilon, which is cheaper and safer, or if she is not obviously in pain, cease the painkiller!
The really interesting advice was on diet. I had been feeling terrible ever since the laminitis diagnosis because I wondered if the small amount of grain feed the donkeys get (250g once per day for digestion) might have caused the laminitis through too much protein. Jacobo asked to see the grain (pienso). This is a Corcel horse product containing wheat and barley grains, a very small amount of alfalfa pellets, a few bits of algaroba, etc. A third of a scoop once a day. I had been informed originally by a previous vet in 2011 that a very small quantity of this was good for the digestion if their diet was mainly wheat straw.
Jacobo said this product was low sugar and in any case, in the quantity the donkeys are getting, it could be considered as a treat rather than a main part of their diet. To cut out this, or cut out the small amount of alfalfa 10% that goes into their straw mix, could produce a reaction in donkeys losing their appetite if they find the food boring.
After Jacobo’s visit I am very reassured the laminitis is under control and Aitana’s susceptibility can be managed in future. I have to make some decisions on the advice about the painkiller: my instinct is to cease at the weekend. Aitana has always been a delicate donkey: it is a bit of a joke with my daughter that Aitana has carrot days and non-carrot days, and tends to be fussy and obsessive about food. She is always first to start braying if food is late coming.
The other problem, as discussed in yesterday’s post, is the weight-loss issue. The farrier’s visit was not meant to address that, nor did he comment on it because it is not his field. We await the laboratory test.
After waking up at 3am worrying about Aitana again, I am pleased to say that I am now enjoying a very early beer this morning, and feeling very very reassured after Jacobo’s visit. I should add that he only wanted to charge me the same amount that he charges for a normal visit – with no extra for the laminitis examination, tutorial, and expertise with the hoof management. Naturally I gave him a tip. He is first class. Gracias, amigo. Aqui tenemos un profesiónal.
What is needed now is similar professional advice and management of the weight loss problem: what caused it, and how do we address it?
And I am still interested in the timing with the ‘flu/tet innoculation. If this animal had been identified as laminitic on 4 July, as photographic evidence shows she should have been, would it have been wise to innoculate her? I think there could be a general professional learning point here that goes beyond the individual problem with my Aitana.
17 August 2.30 pm
After a massage of her front legs from me (thanks to Penny Holtzem in Finestrat for instructing me on correct way to massage Aitana), Aitana has followed her mother down the slope to level 2. She went slowly but without any hesitation. She had an argument with Morris and hurried back up the opposite slope. Going up has not been a difficulty, but the unhesitating descent was like a small miracle.