Irish Donkey Welfare Organisation
THE ELDERLY DONKEY
As in most species, the elderly donkey requires a little extra care.
In the wild, a donkey would be unlikely to live beyond about 20 years. In a more domesticated environment such as here in Ireland, donkeys can live into their early 50's. So donkey ownership is and should be a lasting commitment.
Similar to humans, older donkeys can suffer with joint pains and arthritic joints and he may need pain relief from time to time, those years of outdoor living in wet and cold conditions having taken their toll.
In all probability some of his teeth will have been lost or be loose, making eating difficult. In such cases specialist food will have to be provided to maintain an acceptable weight. It will probably be a good idea to get the teeth checked by a vet or equine dentist from time to time.
If eating is not a problem a mixture of 50/50 hay and straw and if necessary perhaps a high fibre beet as a supplement and a mineral lick. As always feed according to condition.
The other main problem will possibly be his feet and may require to have the farrier visit more often. Laminitis attacks may become more frequent and you should be guided by the vet as to any long term management.
Stabling and bedding will need adjustment. More deep straw bedding to keep out draughts and cushion his body and joints from the hard surface underneath and use of an overhead heat lamp during cold nights will make him more comfortable as will a well fitting rug/coat during colder weather.
The time will come, we hope naturally that his life will draw to a close. If however in the meantime as an owner you feel that his quality of life is debatable, then be guided by your vet as to what is best for the donkey.