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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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Dental Day

I had heard that a terrific equine dentist was traveling up this way from the mainland and after exchanging a few emails with him, learned that he has all the gear for minis (many vets only have dental apparatus for big horses.)

My regular vet (whom I adore) only does hand floating and has a strange little mouth prop that doesn't allow her to actually look inside the mouth.  It's easier on the donkey for sure, but she has to do everything by feel.  And how far can one feel inside a mini mouth?  Their teeth go way back.

So I thought this would be a great opportunity to have a dental specialist "float" the donkeys and also I really wanted to be able to see inside of Rosie and Heather's mouths as they both chew a bit funny!

So, the vet arrived with his assistant at 7:30 AM and got set up.  He has a chin rest which he hangs from a beam.  First he talks to the donkey and checks out her mouth, then he sedates them with a low dose of Rompum + Detomadine, then he fits the mouth speculum and opens it manually to about 70% so as not to stress the jaw.  Then the donkey's chin goes onto the chin rest - this keeps her head up a bit so he doesn't have to hold it up.  A dozy donkey is likely to lower her head.

He has mini attachments for a cordless drill and sets about grinding off points and hooks.  He decided to abandon the chin rest (hanging) for Dorica. Instead his assistant is holding her head up.  On the extreme left, you can see Forrest watching with some trepidation.  She said she found it "disturbing" and I have to say I agree with her, although I know it was for the best!

Here he is examining Rose - she is 17 now and has a lot of tartar. He left a little rubber finger brush for me to use.

And here is Siog being sedated before the procedure.  She was so wonderful! 

After it was all done, the donkeys were very wobbly, especially Siog.  Siog had sharp hooks on her very last molars on the bottom jaw.  The vet said that a hand float could never have removed them.  Unfortunately he rubbed the gum a tiny bit with the float (which had protective guards) and Siog suffered afterwards.  It was clear she felt lousy and when she refused to eat, I decided to give her 0.5 cc of paste Banamine.

I didn't use to reach for drugs so soon, I was much more of a "wait and see" person!  But the signal to use Banamine for me is if a donkey is off her feed.  Things can go sideways pretty quickly, so I think of a small dose of paste Banamine (Flunixin) the same as taking an Advil.  It can relieve pain and inflammation quite quickly.

This morning everyone is fine and I feel better too!  I think I'd like to learn a bit more and tweak the dental process a bit if possible.  I thought the donkeys were too upset during the procedure.  Poor Heather practically sat down and was pulling away, causing great strain to her poll.  I'm not sure about the chin rest apparatus and would like to find the exact right combo and amount of drugs to use for them.  They seemed more sedated afterwards than during the ordeal!

I really liked this dental vet - he was very kind and very open to suggestions.  He had a great bedside manner with the donkeys and really knows his stuff!


  1. My crew got their teeth worked on yesterday as well with the same exact set up. It is a bit disturbing, it all seems so barbaric.

    I discussed sedation with the vet as donkeys are very tricky to sedate. The drug you are probably trying to think of is dormosedan. Emma was not deeply under either, but she was kind and tractable about it so it was OK. If you had problems with yours, you may need a slightly higher dose next time. You could also talk to your vet about the possibility of you administering a small dose of oral Dormosedan about 30 min before the vet actually gets there as it might work better if it is administered before the donkey gets excited.

    There is a ton of controversy about the "right" way to float teeth...power tools vs hand floats, sedation vs. awake....it's as bad as foot trimming and nutrition trying to find two experts that agree. Personally, I don't see any reason not to use sedatives as it is so much easier on the animal and it is the skill of the tool user rather than the tool that matters. Minis are going to be tough to work on no matter what just because of their size - all those teeth in such a small space:).

    1. Hi Kris, I plan to email you but thanks for your comment! I completely agree with your thought that the tool is less important than the skill of the handler. I used to be a strong advocate for hand floating but now I'm not so sure. Mini donkeys have larger heads than mini horses therefore potentially "better" mouths if the parents were good stock. Mine are all
      on the larger, stocky side thankfully!

  2. You might want to look into Dormosedan as a sedative. We use it on the rescue donkeys and it seems to work very well. There is an injectable version as well as an oral paste. The paste takes "at least" forty minutes to kick in so you need to plan ahead, but it seems to sedate them well and to leave them not too wobbly when procedure is done. Our vet uses power tools as well.

  3. Thanks Ann - do you use this sedative alone (i.e. no Rompum or other drug in the mix?)
    I would love to use a paste instead of having to find a vein for IV - wonder if we can get it in Canada? I'll check it out. What rescue do you work with?