Updates on Norma the laminitic Donkey and some Radiographs…

Thursday, January 6th, 2011 | Filed under Medical

Norma is my donkey who suffered a bout of laminitis that was the worst I have ever known in all my years of horse ownership.  Yikes.

For me in the past, when I would see a sore foot (vary rare), I would bring the individual inside, remove all sweet feed of any kind, reduce feed in general, put on pads, dose him/her with Banamine and see how they were in the morning.

Most often, they would get better but I would call out the vet anyway, just to be sure.  The vet would put on better pads and give Banamine.  In every other experience of mine, the equine would be better in three days.  I would watch them for another two weeks but that was it.  Nothing more serious than that.

So, this is what I expected with Norma.  I saw that she was sore, I brought her in, did all my ritual stuff and … and…

She didn’t get better.

Norma Day 1, holding up her left foot. Ouch.


Everyone seems to think that donkeys don’t get laminitis or founder.  But, they do.  Especially heavy donkeys (my bad).  She is a little tubby and I had just let her out on green grass at the wrong time of day during the wrong time of year (another my bad).


I called the vet out the next day.  And the day after that.  And again.

Why wasn’t she getting better?  The vet was scratching his head.  I mean, of course horses don’t get better with laminitis often.  It is an insidious affliction that has many causes and domino effects.  But, we knew what happened to Norma and she should have been getting better.  We did hoof testing and she showed no abscesses or any swelling.

We decided to try an experimental procedure that is having great results in an Equine hospital in Colorado.  However, they had never tested it on a donkey.  Norma would be the first and they were very excited. We did this twice.  Twice they shipped the ingredients to us and twice we administered it.  NOTHING.

Well, I shouldn’t say NOTHING.  Her right foot seemed to be fine.  Her left foot was off the charts ouchy.

We put on pads.  We gave her pain relief.  We bedded her stall so deep we almost lost her.  We looked for abscesses.  NOTHING.

I was not going to lose my donkey if I could help it.  Here it was my fault and I thought it was my duty to make her better.  But, I was failing.

After the vet came... medicated, wrapped, bedded... Nothing. She didn't get better.


Just about when we were starting to feel very glum and worst case scenario… her coronet band exploded!

It didn’t explode but when I went to feed I saw blood and ooze streaming down her hoof.  Yay!  I touched it to feel the consistency and texted my vet.  He called back elated! He swung by my place to place a pad on her coronet band that would encourage and draw out the abscess.  And, we waited.

Ugh.  It was a biggun.   It also broke through about two inches above her coronet band.  Yuk.  Eesh.  Blech.  I kept wiping and wrapping with Betadine and Epsom Salts.  Norma pretty much hated me.  She liked me when I fed but other than that, talk to the hoof.

This is the toe abscess in her left front


Once her coronet band and ankle abscesses healed she was sound for about a day.  Then, I noticed an ever so slight inability to pivot to the left.  Hmmmmm.  The farrier happened to be coming that day.  Yay!  He took one look at her soles and said that she had bi-lateral toe abscesses starting to drain.  He cut them out and opened them up.  We cleaned out the wound and applied medicated pads.  Ouchywowwa.

This is the right foot toe abscess


What is amazing is that Norma hardly showed any pain with the bi-lateral toe abscesses.  BI-LATERAL TOE ABSCESSES, huge boils of yuk pressing against her toe nails and she hardly flinched.  So, that tells me that when she was three-legged lame, it REALLY hurt.   Poor girl.


After Norma had mostly healed from her abscess party, the vet and I decided to do radiographs to understand if there was any Coffin bone rotation and therefore, how to trim her.

Do you know the difference between an Xray and a Radiograph – other than one has to be developed and one is instant?  I didn’t either.  And, because most people say “XRAY” when they mean Radiograph, I decided to ask my vet.

An Xray is the ray that is shot through whatever you need to picture.  So, Xrays are used to create the filmed Xray or the Radiograph.  The Xrays are then recorded either on film (the kind of Xrays your DR holds up in front of the light)  or digitally for a Radiograph (the instant kind the vet brings with him).

I never knew the difference, really.

Slight loss of bone in the tip of the left Coffin bone


I posted the radiographs so you can see where Norma has a slight rotation and a slight drop.  However, we are all very lucky because she has plenty of sole and is in no danger of exposing her Coffin bone.

On the graph, my vet created the lined angles for my farrier to trim her hoof in order to support the Coffin bone and help it re-set itself in time.  I need to print these and give them to my farrier.  Even though there is some degradation to the tip of the Coffin bone on her left foot, we decided not to put on any shoes or clogs at this point.  The issue is slight and should be alright for her once the bone is rotated to its normal position.

The areas that I circled are the two toe abscesses that are healing.  Because we could see that the right foot toe abscess had no clear exit point anymore, we opened it up a bit to make sure it would totally heal.

Then, we put Purple Mush inside the area of the abscesses (this stuff is great!  Read about it here.)

As an aside, my vet asks ME if I have any of “that Purple Mush” to help him heal my donkey.  My vet preferred to use it in this application than anything he had on his truck.  I love it!

OK, then we added gauze, wrapped the foot with vet wrap and then added a duct tape bootie that I designed and created poorly and then he re-built for me.  I will write a “HOW TO” blog on duct-tape booties very soon!

The lines my vet drew to show the farrier how to trim her right foot to support the Coffin bone

The same for the left


Today, she is walking around fine in her booties.  I will change them in a day or so and after 7 days, we will trim her.

Norma will be fine.  Phew…  I learned a lot, believe me!  No green grass in the afternoon in the Fall or Spring.

Thank you, everyone, for caring about my sweet Norma Jean!

Norma in her stall, almost healed and waiting for dinner. Of course, photobombing Shiva in in front...

HORSE AND MAN is a blog in growth… if you like this, please pass it around!


To learn all about the Bucket Fund and to donate the the “Saved from Slaughter Orphan Foals”, please click on the photo (photo credit, Trish Lowe)

HELP THE Orphan Foals! Click here!

HORSE AND MAN is a blog in growth... if you like this, please pass it around!

3 comments have been posted...

  1. Linda Horn

    Happy donkey ears … so good for both of you! I hope Norma won’t be too difficult with her feet in the future. She’ll certainly never forget, but maybe she will forgive, to one degree or another. From what I read in you’re link to “Purple Mush” it should be in every horse medicine chest.

    And Tess is SO beautiful! I’m from New England, and have always LOVED Morgans. I almost had one of my own when I lived in Texas, but quit my job and had to move before I signed the contract.

    The contract was interesting. I would have paid $100 a month over the gestation and weaning period. Live foal guaranteed, and return of investment or choice of another foal born that year if things went bad.

    I had my pick of 4 stallions and about 10 mares. Three of the stallions were very flashy park horses, but liked the one that was what it think Justin Morgan must have looked like. And I chose a mare that had such wonderful, airy gaits she literally floated across the ground!

    Hard to believe she had been rescued from a tiny, dark shed full of muck. I watched her progress from near death (Henneke 1) to a healthy, raving beauty in about 8 months. Those wonderful folks were so dedicated to saving her, and I bet she went on to have beautiful babies.

  2. Sharon

    So glad to hear she is on the road to recovery and very sorry that you both had to go through this.

Post a comment!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *