Wound Management - Donkey

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The donkey is liable to skin injury through its relatively exposed limbs and the circumstances of its management. Whilst the horse has a reputation for ‘poor healing’ with respect to lower limb healing in particular, the donkey seems to have a reputation for good healing with the proviso that proper management is applied. It is always unfair to blame ‘nature’ for poor healing wounds when the care and attention given mitigates against a rapid and natural repair. These differences make the study of wound healing in equids particularly interesting and also add to the clinical challenges that the species offer to practising veterinary surgeons and owners under all circumstances.

Anatomical knowledge is possibly the most important single aspect of wound management in donkeys. Many problematic wounds have recognizable anatomical complications that could have perhaps been foreseen at the outset. The major constraint in the management of wounds in donkeys is the need to examine and treat wounds within the first few hours after wounding occurs. The second limiting factor is that, under many practical circumstances, the working donkey cannot be rested or hospitalized. A combination of necessity, poverty and ignorance (and unfortunately, in some cases, cruelty) means that many wounds are presented long after the acute stages. Once complicating factors are present, then the wound may pass into a continuing cycle of chronic inflammation and failure to heal as a result. Management becomes problematic and the need for intensive treatment increases.

Where a wound fails to heal as expected, the clinician should in most cases be able to recognise the possible reasons for this. The wrong treatment, or the right treatment badly executed, can result in failure of the wound healing process and may even endanger the animal’s life.

This section describes the principles of wound management under these headings:

Basic wound management

Fundamentals of healing

Factors that inhibit wound healing

Wound types and their management

Maggot therapy for wound treatment


Wound management is one of the most expensive clinical procedures in equine practice and decisions must be taken carefully with specific clinical intentions. Delays in wound healing are expensive and also result in significant welfare considerations for the horse or donkey as well as extra stable management, so it is important to repair the wound as soon as practicable.

It is also important to remember that there is nothing prescriptive about the clinical management of a wound, because no two wounds are the same. The clinician will need to consider carefully the whole wounded area and carry out appropriate procedures that will encourage and speed up the healing process. The basics are clear. The wound care should be directed towards healing as early as possible and with the minimum number of complications. This means that at every stage the wound must be examined carefully and thoroughly. Management may have to change and there may be some circumstances when some harm has to be done in the expectation that it will help in the end. Promises of a rapid recovery, however, are unwise and almost always unrealistic. A few wounds heal amazingly well and others that should do so simply fail to heal for no easily defined reason. It is wise to keep the owner informed of the reasons for each decision so that disappointment and acrimony can be avoided.

Literature Search

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Use these links to find recent scientific publications via CAB Abstracts (log in required unless accessing from a subscribing organisation).

Wound management in donkeys related publications

New technique for reconstructing fresh massive wounds with skin flaps in equine. El-Tookhy, O.; Torad, F.; Shamaa, A.; El-Mahdy, M.; Iranian Veterinary Surgery Association, Kermen, Iran, Iranian Journal of Veterinary Surgery, 2007, 2, 4, pp 7-16, 30 ref. - Full Text Article


  • Knottenbelt, D. (2008) The principles and practice of wound mamagement In Svendsen, E.D., Duncan, J. and Hadrill, D. (2008) The Professional Handbook of the Donkey, 4th edition, Whittet Books, Chapter 9
  • Knottenbelt, D.C. (1997). ‘Equine Wound Management: Are there significant differences in healing at different sites on the body?’ Veterinary Dermatology 8. pp 273-290.
  • Mulder, J.B. (1989). ‘The medical marvels of maggots’. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 195. pp 1497-1499.
  • Pascoe, R.R., Knottenbelt, D.C. (1999). Manual of Equine Dermatology. W. B. Saunders, London.
  • Wilmink, J.M., Stolk, P.W.T., van Weeren, P.R., and Barneveld, A. (1999). ‘Differences in second intention wound healing between horses and ponies; macroscopical aspects’. Equine Veterinary Journal 31. pp 53-60.
  • Winter, G.D. (1962). ‘Formation of the scab and the rate of epithelialisation of superficial wounds in the skin of the young domestic pig’. Nature 193. pp 293-294.

Further reading:

Knottenbelt, D.C. (2004). A handbook of Equine Wound Management. W.B. Saunders, London.

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This section was sponsored and content provided by THE DONKEY SANCTUARY