Donkeys DO suffer laminitis and founder. Getting them into the barn is no fun, either…

Don’t let anyone tell you that donkeys don’t suffer laminitis or founder. I’ve herd that falsity over and over.

Well, let me tell you, it isn’t true.  I know this because Norma, my donkey, has laminitis right now.  Very serious stuff.  Nothing to take lightly.


Yup.  Sure, donkeys are not prone to the same leg and foot problems that plague horse.  But, given incorrect foods (too many sweets), donkeys can and do succumb to laminitis and founder.

My curly haired Norma, after the rain...


I didn’t.  Well, maybe I did, indirectly, but I wasn’t there at the time.  You see, five years ago, I left Grass Valley for two years.   I could only take 5 of my horses with me so I needed to temporarily place Norma and the ponies… I knew my neighbor coveted Norma and only Norma.  But since they were a trio, she offered to take all three.  I was thrilled because this is the neighbor that already brought two horses into their 40s and presently had 9 cows in their upper teens.  I knew Sonja would take extra special care of my three.

What I didn’t consider in this fostering was that Sonja loves to feed — especially treats.  Since Sonja’s animals are very large, this ‘need to feed’ was no issue.  I mean, 9 – 2000 lbs cows can put it away, if you know what I mean.  But, my Norma, at that time,  weighed only about 400lbs and was as dainty as a teacup.

Norma became Sonja’s favorite (of course!).  She was brought into a lovely stall at dusk and received the full 4-Star treatment with special love, affection and a bucket of apples/carrots/donkey treats nightly.  Norma became a bit portly and then … suffered laminitis.

It was at that precise laminitis moment that I returned to Grass Valley.  Sonja called me in a panic to bring Norma and the ponies back to the ranch.  Norma was lame and I was flabbergasted.

A donkey, lame?  How could this be?

Sonja told me that the vet told her to quit the sweets and she would be fine…

She came back to me a bit portly. My farrier calls her, "Enorma".


Norma was willing to walk home to the ranch, very tenderly.  She wobbled like the largess donkey she had become and I was a bit frantic.  I had no idea how long this had been going on or if there had been any founder.  Immediately, I called out the vet and his Xray machine.

Luckily, no rotation.  We gave her some Bute, put her in a heavily bedded stall and waited.  Within a week, she was fine.


So, for the last three years, Norma has slimmed a bit (those last 50lbs are hard for a poor donkey to lose!) and she lives in a mostly barren pen that she and the ponies scrounge around, eating anything that dares peep its little green head.

About once a week, I let all three out to romp around the irrigated front lawns and other areas, just to exercise themselves and their little pony/donkey minds.  They love it!  And, for three years, no problems.

I didn't see the signs...


Except, there was a problem today…  I had let them out two days ago and the next morning, Norma was sore.  I actually didn’t connect the dots…  I cleaned out her hoof (felt no heat) and thought she might have been playing too rough with the boys. Since there was no heat and no swelling, I thought it was her shoulder.  It never occurred to me that the grass had gotten to her.

Yes, it had been raining this week and the grass had grown in a powerful, sugary burst.  I should have realized that it was more potent right now.  But still, they weren’t out on the grass for that long…  I missed the ‘green grass = trouble’  idea completely.

Today, she was worse.  So much worse that I knew it wasn’t her shoulder.  Either she had an abscess or laminitis.  Doh.  I felt so stoopid.


OY.  Trying to get Norma to the barn was a nightmare for her and for me.  Poor thing.  She wanted nothing to do with moving towards the barn and everything to do with eating more grass.  It went something like this:

You want me to do what??!

Me:  Norma, we need to go to the barn so I can take care of you.

N:  I’m fine.

Me:  No, you are limping and I need to help you now before it gets worse.

N:  Look.  I’m fine.  (standing upright and square)

Me:  No, you’re faking it.  C’mon.

N:  No.

Me:  Norrrrmaaaa, c’mon to the barn (in my singsongy voice)

N:  Nnnnoo (mocking me).

Me:  C’mon, I’ll give you a treat.

N:  There’s lovely gren grass all around.  Why would I go to the barn, silly human?

Me:  Puleeze.

N:  Uh.  No.

Me: I’m insulted.  I’m hurt (trying to lay the guilt trip on her) and I love you and let Mom help you.

N:  Ha! Nice try!  Nope.

Me:  (pulling like mad)  Come!  NOW!

N:  (digging in her heels)  The fact that you are puuuullling so hard AND YELLING makes me know that coming with you is a bad idea.  NO.

Have you ever tried to move a donkey that didn’t want to move?  Useless effort.


(I’m not making light of this.  I know laminitis is a solemn illness.  But, getting her to the barn was kinda funny…)

So, I had the great idea to let the ponies out and then rattle some grain so they’d follow me to the barn and she would follow them.  As I went to the barn to get the grain, Norma hobbled up, quite well, to where the ponies were eating grass and proceeded to join them.

Seeing her nibble on more green grass, I went berzerk.  NOOOOOOOOOOOO!  I went charging up the hill with my grain spilling everywhere… NOOOOOO.  All three scattered like Mom had just turned into a beast with three heads, which I had…

Both the ponies ran to the barn.  Yay!  I let them in.  Perfect!  Mission accomplished… except, not really.  Norma held fast, back out on the green grass.  She wasn’t falling for it.  (Donkeys ARE smarter than horses in many ways…)

Me:  Lookey, Norman, the boys are in the barn having treats (sometimes you have to lie to a donkey…).

N:  Fine.  I don’t care.  I have green grass.  They are stoopid to fall for your tricks.

Me:  Hmmmmm (me rubbing my forehead)   She’s right…

OK, now what do I do?  I have the ponies in the barn, which I don’t want, and Norma is outside the barn which I don’t want either.  I decided to drive Norma to the barn.  I threw some pellets to the ponies to keep them away from the gate (instead of putting them in the stall right there in front of them… you can see where this is going…).

Gently, I carefully walked behind her.  Since she knew exactly what I wanted the entire time, she sighed deeply, OH ALRIGHT,  and hobbled down to the barn.  However,  silly me, not planning this well, had not left the barn gate open and Norma took a quick veer left and ran/gymped back up the hill.

Sheesh.  I should fire myself.

Now I was really frustrated because I didn’t want her to irritate that foot (or the other one) any more by taking one more step than needed.   So, I gently drove her back to the barn and cornered her at the gateway.  Good idea.  Bad execution.  The ponies had finished the pellets and they were now both at the gate, blocking Norma’s entrance.  HEY, LET US OUT TO EAT GREEN GRASS.

Bad plan.

So, I left Norma to her own devices and muscled my way into the barn (past pony patrol) and put them both in a stall – like I should have in the first place.  When I returned to get Norma, all I could see was her donkey patootey.  Once again, I ran in front of her and drove her into the barn. OH NOW JUST COOL YOUR JETS… I KNOW WHAT YOU WANT.  SHEESH.  STOP ALREADY.

Phew.  She was in!  But, so were the ponies…

After a Keystone Cop kinda shuffle, I got the ponies out and Norma settled.

Getting a donkey to go anywhere she deosn’t want to go is an incredible feat of trickery and bribe.  Even when she loves you.


At this point, we are both already exhausted.  But, I knew Norma needed pain relief, swelling relief (although I saw no swelling and felt no heat) and stress relief.  So, I gave her some apple flavored bute and proceeded to create cushy hoof pads for her night in the barn.

My left over blue foam cushy pad with the outline of her hooves.

You see, I’m fairly familiar with laminitis woes since my mare suffered with pregnancy laminitis during her last quad-mester.  I still had all the tools.  Blue foam, vet wrap and boots.  Unfortunately, all my boots were horse-sized, not the dainty size I needed.  But, I made do.


(This is what my vet had me do whenever my mare got worse and before he could arrive.)

First, I put Norma’s bad foot on the foam and drew a line around it.  I cut it out and vet wrapped the new cushy pad on her foot so it wouldn’t slide (or so I thought).  Next, I made a cut-out of the good foot based on the bad foot (since she wouldn’t put weight on her bad hoof).  I tried to vet wrap that on but she wouldn’t keep her foot up long enough so the application was not very secure.

It was on there but not on well...

Hmmmm.  I decided to keep the good foot wrapped poorly but secured in a boot.  I had no donkey-sized boots so I used the temporary lightweight trail fix boot that I used on Tess.  It is a flat cut-out with velcro tabs that allow you to “wrap” the hoof.  I did this.  It wasn’t pretty but it worked.

I wrapped the other foot, with the pad, in the flat boot. Not pretty but it did the trick.

I gave her some grass hay and left her for a bit.

Go Away! Leave me in peace, woman!

When I came back, the pad on the bad foot had slipped.  So, I Ninja wrapped it again and it seemed better.


I am hoping that some soft bedding, bute and no green grass will help the laminitis subside.

I Ninja wrapped it and went inside to study...

In the meantime, I’ve been scrambling to learn more about feeds/supplements that might help promote and strengthen the system against laminitis, if there is such a thing.  Or, a supplement that helps the circulation or something like that.  People have given me many ideas that I’ve stored in a folder for future use.  Well, the future is here.  I’m going to order something tonight and I will keep you posted.

For now, I’m sitting on pins and needles, waiting for the morning.  I sure hope she is better.  Laminitis is NOTHING to play with.  And, once it occurs, it can always reoccur.  Even in donkeys.


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11 comments have been posted...

  1. Terri Merryman

    Try feed called “Relief”. It works for my little Thelma Lou and she hasn’t been lame since I rescued her.

  2. dawndi Post author

    I would stop the applesauce unless a small amount helps you get her meds into her. But, the sugars in apples, pears, persimmons and carrots could help cause laminitis. That is what caused Norma to have her first spell of laminitis. Too many apples and carrots from a well meaning neighbor.

  3. Marlene

    How long before we can see some results with our horse and know we are winning with his laminitis? Never had this problem before…thanks

  4. Marlene

    We have a curly horse with laminitis…and we are treating him now with alternative AntiFlam.[this gets him off the bute] supposedly will make him more comfy without hurting his tummy.? ..He is also receiving a vitamin and mineral suppliment…both expensive but hopefully worthwhile. I am giving him applesauce from our own trees…no chemicals or sprays /cooked up with the peelings left on…One cup/three times per day…you mentioned that no fruits with a high sugar content should be given…should I stop the applesauce? Thanks Marlene

  5. Anne

    hello I enjoyed reading the other posts too; sounds excellent the mashes and the pete ramsey hoof rehab; note: Kelp which is an ocean seaweed is one of the most mineral complete foods known

    Kelp is also high in Idoine; which is an essential and controls “some aspects of hunger; so indirectly Kelp helps weight; to maintain a proper balance of feeding etc.

    I forgot to mention yesterday in my notes: The Hay I know of which has very high Magnesium is “Oats and or Oat Hay…

    problem is I wouldn’t have a clue how much to give or what type !

  6. Robynne Catheron

    Dawn, please read Pete Ramey’s articles on his website. He is THE MASTER of the hoof. I promise you will find all the information you need to help your girl. In the meantime, keep her feet clean with apple cider vinegar. It works wonders on dirt, bacteria, viruses, etc, but won’t harm live tissue. Then, as soon as she’s a little more comfortable, stop the bute- it stresses their system and prevents self-healing. Great job with those pads! Good luck, and please keep us posted on her progress.


  7. Sherie

    Skodes emergency mashes …totally helped Raina I agree with the magnesium….Lori from Skodes says most laminitis patients are low in magnesium. Her mashes have an herb….maybe kelp that has magnesium in it. also other organic herbs for inflammation and thyroid support. My mare has chronic laminitis and will need to wear her ez boots when she is out side probably for ever.. Also she has to lose about 100 lbs. So when your donkey loses her extra weight that may help too. Good luck…this situation is no fun and is labor intense to manage.

  8. Anne

    ps when I said any green forage; I meant: any green hay or dried forage that does not have the roots…I would see what Vet. says!

    Magnesium is a common mineral found in earth crust and in wells;

    Epsoms Salts were discovered in a well in Espom England 1800’s

    only royalty were allowed to drink the magneisum rich waters ! a.

  9. Anne

    summary: Green plants are high n Magnesium; White plants such as roots of plants are high in Calcium

    too much Calcium is not good; Equine require extra Magnesium

    since Magnesium is “green: any green forage should do the trick

  10. Anne

    Hi Dawn: your Curly donkey looks pretty good; except for the hoof problem; i bet he likes the cushy foam; anyhoo; my very limited knowledge on Laminits nutritionally speaking is this;

    in a nustshell; not meant to diagnose treat or cure any disease Is

    “Magnesium…my understanding is this; simply the Grass plant has Calcium in the roots; and Magensium in the greens; somehow the Equine gets too much Calcium from the roots which causes a deficiency of Magnesium; because Calcioum reduces Magnesium; appartanlty fast growing grass has higher calcium…

    so I would try an Epsoms Salt mixed with water paste on hooves;
    let dry then rinse off; try this several times a day or let the hoof set in bowl with water and Espoms salt mixture like a paste;

    Epsoms Salts is pure magensium; so I would suggest a pellet or suppulment whihc has atelast some magneisum; just my thoughts

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