My Deenah - I really thought I was going to lose her last week! She is so thin and seemed to be feeling awful. How could I tell? Her stance, for one thing - neck stretched out, head hanging low.
Her separation from the others - I would often find her in the barn by herself when the minis were out in the paddock.
Her disinterest in hay - although she was/ is still eating, she would wander away from her hay which is so unlike her.
Her quietness - donkeys are quiet when they are not feeling well. Have you ever noticed how much energy it takes to bray? Deenah always greets me. When she is mute, I know something is wrong.
Her eyes - there just didn't seem to be a sparkle in her eyes and she's always been such a comic, with a "camel-like" tilt to her head and mouth.
And finally, her place in the herd. This past week, Dee has been unable to "defend" her hay from the minis and could easily be bullied by them and she has been the matriarch. They seemed to treat her more harshly too - picking on the weak?
So ... what to do - I felt this was really an emergency. Reading the signs, I felt that Deenah might be winding down and I want to offer her the very best - minimize any suffering and correctly read her condition without putting her through a lot of tests or stress for an old donkey. But what a lot of guessing and hoping!
With the help of our vet, Dr. Yaela Gleusteen and with the kindness, generosity and experience of Dr. Faith Burden, head of equine nutrition at the Donkey Sanctuary of the UK, I am absolutely thrilled to report that I think we have pulled Deenah back from the brink this time!
It's been a matter of feeding her enough fat and protein to offer her the chance to rebound, but one has to be careful. New feed has to be introduced slowly, increases done carefully, always watching, monitoring.
We decided to add more "mash" to Dee's diet - Timothy hay cubes and Timothy- Alfalfa hay cubes, soaked, several times a day. More palatable than hay, easier to eat. I am offering softer hay for her too and NO hay bags - she should not have to work for her feed now.
She is also getting (and eating with gusto) 1 tablespoon of cold-pressed flax oil (for some added fat and Omega 3 & 6) and 1 tablespoon of de-bittered Brewer's yeast (for the B vitamins.) My routine now is to offer her 1 Cup of hay cubes (measured before soaking) with every meal. I separate her from the minis twice a day to make sure she has an uninterrupted time to eat.
I have also been taking her out to eat some grass but this may or may not be a good idea (Dee thinks it's grand!) as the overnight temperatures are still very cold which means the grass contains a lot of sugars - not good for equine. But I figure that carefully controlled, this gives Dee a feeling of being special as she looks forward to the outing.
So far, so good - I really think Deenah has made a significant improvement, although I can't reverse her age, she has shown me that she is keen to go on for now!