Callie's Road to Recovery

It’s been five long months since Callie the Jenny was diagnosed with an abscess in her left front hoof. It took a few sets of x-rays for our vets to find the problem. At first they thought it might have been laminitis but luckily there was no rotation of her pedal bone. Callie has had a tendency towards acute foundering, so we’ve had to dry-lot her several times over the past decade.


We are happy to report that she’s come a long way since this photo of me (Edwin) napping with her back in August 2019. I tried to comfort her in the mornings and evenings before and after work – especailly when it was very painful for her to walk. She was lying down a lot which is not good for a donkey’s muscles or their digestion. It also caused a lot of “bed sores” we treated with ointments.


We don’t know how the abscess developed. The experts say that an abscess can develop if a donkey (or horse) steps on a sharp rock and gets a bruise inside the hoof that gets aggravated. Ditto if they step on a sharp object of some kind like a nail, for instance.


Over the course of several months, we soaked her hoof in hot epsom salt solution twice a day for about 20 minutes. This was very hard for Callie because of her pain. In fact she was in so much pain that she would not tolerate the special hoof bootie with gel packs — just too much pain to have any pressure in and around the hoof wall. She kept wanting to take her hoof out of the bucket and we had to force it back in dozens of times during each session to get a full twenty minutes. In addition, we had her on antibiotics for a few months and were treating her with Phenylbutazone (bute) for pain.


Finally, after about a week of the epsom salt treatment, the infection “blew out” laterally along her coronet band. This was cause for some concern at first because we were worried about the integrity of the hoof wall and hoping the old part did not slough off too quickly (depending on the severity of an abscess, blood flow to the hoof can be cut off so a large portion of the hoof dies and gets pushed out by new material). Now we can see – five months later – that the new material comprises about half of her hoof. There is a ridge between the two areas that we’ve been filing and separating using farrier tools so new growth is not impeded.


At present (late December 2019), Callie is walking with hardly any pain judging from her gait. We took her in to the equine clinic for a checkup and got a thumbs up. It’ll be another six months or so for the old material to grow out to the point where it can be trimmed off for good. Meanwhile, we are keeping a close eye on her.


Based on suggestions from our vets, we have changed the donkeys’ diet across the board. Now their grain is Purina Enrich Plus Ration Balancing Feed and small quantities of coastal hay. This feed is good protein-wise but is very low in carbs. It’s helping them to lose weight… Of course they all graze on grass, but we will be watchful for any signs of foundering this Spring when the grasses are full of protein and sugar.