Reasons for performing the study Lameness is prevalent in working donkeys and has major welfare implications; however, a detailed study of the associated clinical signs is lacking. Objectives To describe the range and prevalence of clinical signs and conformation associated with lameness in working draught donkeys. Study design Prospective, cross-sectional, observational study. Methods Data were collected from 102 working draught donkeys in Pakistan. A lameness assessment adapted for working donkeys was used to record clinical signs of lameness, gait, limb conformation and pain responses in the feet, limbs and spine using observation, palpation and manipulation. Lameness at the walk was scored from 0 to 10 (sound to nonweightbearing). Results Every donkey examined had gait abnormalities, with 5% having a nonweightbearing limb. Lameness was significantly more severe with older age, lower body condition score and forward-at-the-knee conformation. More severe lameness was also associated with pain responses in the hoof walls, palpation of limb joints and spinal flexion. Joint, tendon and foot pathology was highly prevalent, as well as pain responses to joint flexion and spinal manipulation. Conformational abnormalities showed lateral asymmetries. Conclusions Over 98% of the world's 42.2 million donkeys are in low-income countries, most being used for work. The high prevalence of lameness, pain and multiple limb and spinal abnormalities in working donkeys is of great welfare concern and highlights the complexity of addressing this problem. This standardised lameness assessment can be used when implementing and monitoring interventions to reduce lameness prevalence in working donkeys.
Equine Veterinary Journal