During the past several years, I have been extremely fortunate to have support and advice in all-things-donkey from Dr. Faith Burden through the UK Donkey Sanctuary. Although my veterinarian is an equine specialist and really terrific, the differences in the metabolic and digestive requirements between donkeys and horses are quite unique and Dr. Burden has played a huge role in my knowledge and husbandry practices.
Through Dorica's colic episode, both my vet and Dr. Burden offered great advice, which I will write about now (and hope I haven't forgotten anything!)
Why does impaction colic happen? Well, unfortunately no one can really see what's going on inside the many miles of digestive tract inside a donkey, so it's a best guess kind of thing. But two things to watch for are teeth and water intake. If a donkey can't chew properly, things are going to get swallowed that haven't been broken down enough.
Also chewing creates saliva, a necessary component of digestion as it helps to buffer the hydrochloric acid produced by the stomach. I think that's more about preventing ulcers than impaction colic but I guess it's all related.
It would be a good idea to have teeth checked and floated if necessary in the Fall so you head into winter with a good set of chompers!
Water, water everywhere! But nobody is drinking!! This is a BIG problem as donkeys don't tend to drink much when the weather is cold. I purchased 2 heated buckets a few years ago and thought I had the answer. Everyone seemed to drink their fill, although not as much as during summer. But this year, for some mysterious reason, the donkeys have not been drinking nearly enough.
I tried flavoring the water with diluted mint tea or apple juice but no one cared for that. I clean the buckets regularly, I tried rain water instead of well water ...
So to remedy that, I have resorted to a morning mash. I used to do this and then I stopped, thinking "simpler is better." I hate the thought of feeding processed horse feed, most definitely GMO, usually too high in sugars and other unwanted ingredients. So this winter, I didn not offer the morning mash .... until Dorica's colic, that is.
Now I feed: 1/2 cup or so to each donkey of a mix of soaked soy bean hull + beet pulp, (good water content but not too sloppy or they won't eat it ) + 1 tsp. salt + vitamin/ minerals (either Dr. Reeds' pellets or Pure Form Mini formula) + 1 Tblsp ground flax seed (I keep a coffee grinder in the barn and grind every day)
The morning mash is a good base if you need to add other stuff. Dorrie has been getting a probiotic all week and Rose was getting a hoof supplement (biotin, zinc, etc.) but I stopped. Sometimes I add apple slices. When Dorica was ill, I added applesauce to hers.
Exercise: I do make sure that everyone gets out and moves around every day. But how much is really up to them. One technique I use is what I call "the hay trail." I will grab a handful of hay and walk out to the furthest end of the property and start dropping small handfuls here and there.
The donkeys hate anything falling out of the sky - rain, snow flakes, especially wind! So I bought rain sheets for everyone and though I'm not a huge fan of clothing, I will put these on and boot them out of the barn to stretch their legs during crappy weather.
I think this post is getting long -perhaps a Part 3?