14 May 2015

Spotting pain in donkeys

Brooke vets in Pakistan and the University of Bristol publish paper about recognising when a donkey is in pain.

Research, funded by the Brooke UK, and carried out by the University and Brooke Pakistan, looked at the proportion of working donkeys in Pakistan affected by painful conditions and also investigated behavioural patterns that may help in identifying these conditions.The behaviour of 134 male donkeys was observed before they were examined by Brooke vets.

This is the final paper in a set of three. The combined findings of these studies can be applied by all those working with donkeys to improve understanding of donkey behaviour and to improve ways of identifying their welfare needs even when veterinary equipment is not available.

Melissa Upjohn, who is Research Coordinator at the Brooke said:

“Owners and local health providers come into contact with animals affected by conditions that aren’t always easy to diagnose without equipment. Whilst some conditions, such as the abnormal lung conditions seen in 97 per cent of the donkeys examined, do require a stethoscope and a quiet area to do an examination, there are other problems, like the lameness seen in 98 per cent of the donkeys, for which behaviour such as weight shifting and leg lifting may enable them to be identified visually whilst at rest.”

“The Brooke is concentrating on training local service providers and owners so they can better look after their animals, and research like this helps us to make this training both practical and evidence based.”

Dr Becky Whay, Reader in Animal Welfare and Behaviour in the School of Veterinary Sciences, added:

“Spotting signs of pain and clinical problems in donkeys is always difficult as they tend to ‘suffer in silence’. By carefully studying their behaviour we have started to learn how to recognise much more reliably when they are in pain and in need of attention"

Clinical abnormalities in working donkeys and their associations with behaviour