Researchers at the Royal Veterinary College and The Donkey Sanctuary in the United Kingdom conducted a retrospective cross-sectional study to describe the prevalence of laminitis among donkeys at the Sanctuary and identify factors associated with occurrence of the disease over a 3 ½-year period from 2015 to 2019.

Of 707 donkeys included in the study, 364 animals showed no signs of laminitis and served as controls. Among cases, 343 animals (48.5% of those at risk) had a first episode of laminitis with 143 of these reoccurring during the study period resulting in a total of 512 episodes of laminitis. More than half (65%) of the episodes of laminitis were chronic, defined as cases with radiographic changes consistent with the disease.

Surprisingly, those that developed laminitis were less likely to be receiving concentrate feeds, although this is most likely an effect, not a causal factor. They were also less likely to have other medical conditions or to have received dental work, diagnostic imaging or surgery.

The laminitic animals were younger than controls. Surprisingly this means almost half of the donkeys living at this well managed sanctuary suffered from laminitis without other related or unrelated medical conditions at some time during this period. Also of note is that the potential risk factors identified are different from those normally considered for horses and ponies.

— Menzies-Gow NJ et al. EVJ 2021;in press