Welcome to my blog - a diary about living with donkeys, notes about care, my training sessions and the absolute pleasure of donkey companionship.

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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Signs of Colic

Colic!  The dreaded "c" word!  Last  night a friend called and asked me to come over while she waited for the vet to arrive.  One of her miniature horses was colicking.  Horses exhibit signs of colic differently than donkeys, as they tend to be more dramatic creatures than the donks.  Her little guy had been rolling and thrashing, flicking his tail and generally seemed very uncomfortable.  She had walked him for an hour and then asked me to stand with him to make sure he didn't go down while she fed her dogs and tended to other animals.

The little horse peed and we could hear gut sounds on the right side (all good news!) and when the vet arrived she listened through her stethoscope, checked his gums, took his temperature and checked his heart rate.  She said she could hear swooshing sounds on his left side which indicated the presence of sand in the cecum or colon.

She gave him 1/2 cc of Rompum to sedate him and then inserted a nasal- gastric tube - this was done to rehydrate him.  The sand will have to be removed slowly with the help of psyllium, fed every other day, with a bran mash fed on the days in between.  The pysillium acts as a binder and the bran as a laxative - both are needed.

My friend was advised to check his manure by putting it in a zip-lock bag, adding water, mixing and then seeing if she could detect sand in the stool by feeling it at the bottom of the bag.

Sand can really cause problems in the bowel if ingested.  But it's nearly impossible to prevent grazing animals from ingesting it!  In summer when there is significant drought here, the donkeys paw and snuffle around in the dirt.  Even feeding them in hay bags causes them to search for the bits that have fallen on the ground.  There are a few ways to minimize sand ingestion though. Some people put a rubber mat on the ground where they eat.  If I feed loose hay, I usually put it in a trough (and hope they don't toss it around too much!)

We were lucky that the vet could come last night.  It was pouring rain and she had to travel by ferry to get here.  If it had been an hour later, the last ferry would have left for the night and we'd be stuck - VERY scary to think of considering that an unskilled person could never administer a nasal-gastric tube to a horse or donkey.

I rushed home to make sure my gang was okay - the weather has been just dismal - torrential rain and fog.  The donkeys have been stuck in the barn without enough exercise ... all factors that can contribute to the dreaded "c" word!


  1. Glad to hear that it sounds like the little guy will be okay. Colic is always so scary!


  2. Poor mini, hope he's on the mend soon :-)

  3. i am temp fostering a little mini jack- i love him! if i had the resources, i would cover my place in mini-donks! he is so sweet, i found him a home on a nice ranch with horses and sheep. he will be well taken care of and loved there! i wish i could help more of them... this one was in a muddy pen about 20x15! argh.
    i think he's pretty healthy although he does get some clear snot;
    and he talks to me a lot!

  4. We have recently relocated to Aiken, SC with two miniature donkeys.They are 18 years old and half brother and sister. I am very concerned about Sand Colic prevention since all of their pasture is now sand. I am trying to contact a Vet about this with no response as yet. I need help. We have them in the barn now and off the sand until we hear from someone. They came with us from NJ where their pasture was well mowed, low level grass to keep their grass consumption minimal.
    Can anyone advise as to how to prevent Sand Colic in miniature donkeys so that I can get them out of the barn for some much needed exercise. I know that they were ingesting some sand as donkeys like to dig and eat. Their hay is given in a feeder on mats for some prevention but I do not believe that will be enough at this time. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Hi Ellen, The only thing that can eliminate sand from the gut is psyllium. I give it to my donkeys in the heat of summer when I know they are ingesting lots of dirt, as a prevention.
      You can buy psyllium for equine at a feed store - put it into a wet mash 2 consecutive days per week.
      You might have to start with a smaller amount, some donkeys don't like how slippery it gets!

      But do let them out of the barn - confinement is not good - they need to move. If you can provide some browse in the form of "safe" branches from trees and shrubs, that will help keep them occupied too as donkeys are browsers. Good idea to feed on wide rubber mats!
      Good luck!

    2. psyllium...sand clear regularly. once a month 1/2 dose of a horse for 7 days....this came from my vet.

    3. I also read the more hay the better, psyllium has no confirmed scientific purpose.
      they need to be active and have plenty of fresh air and water.