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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Friday, January 10, 2014

Keeping an eye on parasites!

The thinking about deworming has changed so much in the 12 years that I have owned donkeys.
When I got my first donk in May of 2002, I was given advice by "reputable" donkey owners to
"give 1/4 tube of Eqvalan (Ivermectin) paste four times a year."  No mention of body weight just that "minis get 1/4 tube."

Another very credible internet source was adamant about rotating dewormers and using a product every 60 days in order to interrupt the cycle of egg laying.  And to deworm every animal in the herd at the same time.  Made sense!  Sort of ... except that I just hated the thought of feeding chemicals to my animals that often.

So I tried a variety of herbal products, again from credible suppliers who were (are still probably) adamant that these products (expensive too) work.  The one thing I couldn't bring myself to try though was feeding diatomaceous earth.  I know there are folks who praise it but to me, it's like feeding ground glass ... right or wrong ( and I'm not sayin' I'm right in this!)

Anyway, now I have a binocular microscope, a jug of sodium nitrate and a set of McMaster slides.  I do my own floats to check for internal parasites and I deworm when the count is higher than 200 eggs per gram.  I attended a 2-day clinic to learn how to do this, have read oodles about equine parasites and have gone to several talks given by vets and parasitologists.

What's amazing is how infrequently the donkeys actually need treating (if you keep your paddocks clean) and also how unique each animal is.  I started checking them in late Fall since deworming after the first frost is a good time, if they need it.  No one did!

When I get a low count of strongyle eggs (they are easy to spot!) I check again often, as perhaps they didn't happen to be shedding at the time I gathered a sample.  So I don't assume that the donkey has little or no parasites - I will check every week or two.  It's not hard to do and doesn't take very long.

So this past Fall Siog needed to be dewormed first, a month later Heather did too but not Rose or Dorrie.  I keep a journal of everything.  I checked Rose yesterday and again today but only counted 2 and then 3 strongyles (I'll deworm when I count 8 or more.) I'll keep checking Rose and Dorica frequently and will start rechecking Siog and Heather about 8 weeks after the dates they were dewormed.

My biggest challenge is dealing with encysted strongyles.  They're the ones that are not in the larval stage and therefore don't show up in a float.  It's a good idea to treat for them once per year but I'm leary of using the drugs on the minis.  Especially living, as we do, on an island where veterinary help is hard
to come by in an emergency.  My plan for treating them is to use Ivermectin in May and then again 3 weeks later - hopefully this will kill of the eggs in the larval stage, inviting the encysted ones to develop and then I'll hit them again.  That's my current thinking for now.  If anyone has a better idea I'm all ears!


  1. Not exactly on topic, but still of veterinary importance, here is a link to a study on drug in donkeys vs horses


    or Google Pharmacokinetics of flunixin meglumine in donkeys, mules, and horses

  2. Thanks Pat! IVIS also has some very good studies on how donkeys respond to drugs - they tend to metabolize some drugs more quickly and certainly differently than horses do. I keep Paste Banamine (which is also flunixin, I think) handy in case of colic or dental pain and I find that a small amount works really well. Most vets though don't understand donkeys specifically and treat them like small horses so we owners need to know this info! Best to you ...!

  3. I am impressed by your diligence in DIY floating. AND, I'll certainly check the link from Pat. I've owned horses for 20 years but am slowly figuring out the differences in care.

    1. Just finished reading your blog back to the beginning. Enjoyed it soooooooo much. Just got two young geldings Oct 29, 2013. Can't explain how I started with Minis, just retired and found my self in a pasture full of them and it was love at first site.
      My question is I have a third that will be old enough to move in sometime in March. Is their much change in interaction when you have three minis instead of two? This is a female that the seller doesnt want to breed because of her under bite. I done want to breed so she would be fine for me and she is beautiful.

    2. Hello! In response to your question about a herd of 3, it should work out fine, although in my experience, they tend to bond in pairs (which is why I now have 4!) But I know lots of people with 3 and they will sort it out - you may see one of them tagging along as a bit of a loner though.

      More importantly, here is something I have noticed - it's really, really great if you can have an older jenny in with youngsters. An "auntie" can offer soooo much in terms of socialization and confidence. I had 2 youngsters (only) when I first got started and it was a bit like leaving two children home without parental guidance - in retrospect, they seemed quite "lost!" Why not bring home a 4th, older donkey with your number #3?

  4. Hi Janet, Thanks for reading! One big difference between horses and donkeys is the amount of grass they should eat - in my opinion, very LITTLE for donks! Grass can lead to obesity very, very quickly and then we know the problems that can come from that. It's so hard managing their weight, I find! They will tell you they are starving and yes, they do need to be munching long, coarse fiber, but not in the form of a lot of grass or high protein/ calorie hay.