Our gentle jenny BonBon has been through a lot this past year. She has twice been to the emergency room for “choke” and had to be treated for an abscess a few months ago. She has also had trouble walking about lately due to chronic laminitis. A trip to the equine clinic bore terrible news about the condition of her bones in the front hoof area. That is to say that the bottom of both coffin bones are degenerated to the point where digital X-rays indicate she may not be with us much longer. Not only have the bones rotated away from the hoof wall too much, but there is a lot of arthritic decay. Enough decay that the bottom part of the bones no longer have clear definition.
Our specialist said that the best we can do for BonBon with her bones in such an advanced state of degeneration, is to keep her in dry lot, keep booties on her front hooves, and keep her on a restricted diet. So that’s what we are doing.
At present, BonBon is dry lotted at the corral adjacent to the new barn. We have two sets of rubber booties that I swap frequently to brush out dirt, clean and dry. The booties have a gel insert that makes it much more comfortable to walk about when there is a hoof and/or bone problem. She’s getting about, but she walks very slowly and deliberately now.
I’ve been administering antibiotics owing to the X-rays showing some “fuzzy” areas that may be indicative of an infection. In addition, I am mixing “bute” as a pain-killer in with her food twice a day. The specialist says that she may last another six months to a year like this, but eventually walking will be come too painful and she’ll lay down and not want to get up. That, unfortunately will be the time she most probably will need to be euthanized. Of course, we are hoping she makes it to the end of her natural life, but nonetheless we are bracing for the worst.
BonBon’s diet now consists of a prepared “slurry” of cubed grasses and a special pelletized diet. There are some scant weeds and grasses in the lot, but it’s slim pickings on purpose. The grass cubes take many hours to break down in a bucket of water before they can be broken apart and not all clumped together. This “slurry” is necessary because of her previous “choke” incidents.
When a horse or donkey has choke, it means that food gets caught in their esophagus. Symptoms include water and food coming out of the nose and mouth. It can be deadly because it causes dehydration, and also if any of the material gets into the lungs, it can kill quickly. All of the food debris must be cleared out with a hose and water. This invasive procedure often causes scarring in the esophageal area and becomes an obstruction leading to another bout of choke. Therefore, when the summertime comes around, and the grasses are no longer supple, it is easy for a donkey or horse to develop this condition — especially if they are not chewing their food completely.
For this reason, a donkey or horse that has had these kinds of troubles is often dry lotted and put on a special diet. Such is the case with BonBon. In addition to the grass cube slurry, she also gets a restricted diet formula of pellets (also soaked in water). The grains have high protein but little sugar or carbs. These get mixed in to the grass cube slurry along with medications.
Despite all of these problems, this donkey is still affectionate, compliant, and a pleasure to deal with. She gets extra attention from us because she can’t play with the other donkeys like she used to be able to. She just moves too slow and is just too delicate now to run about and play with the others. That’s why we try to keep Nestle with her as much as we can. But he needs to get out to the pasture with the others to play and graze so it’s not all the time that he’s with his mom…