Dental Care for Donkeys
Donkeys require regular dental care just like horses do. Every equine — horse, mule, donkey, zebra, etc. — has teeth that are constantly erupting, and then are worn down through the process of daily chewing on their forage. But they rarely wear down their teeth evenly. Teeth develop sharp points, which can cause lacerations on their cheeks and tongues; some teeth grow faster than others, and some start to get pushed out of alignment. All these issues can be addressed, usually by filing (or floating) the teeth. When started early, around the age of two, regular, yearly dental work can prevent most of the abnormalities that can develop in teeth that are ignored.
It is a misconception that if a horse or donkey is fat that their teeth must be fine. That simply isn’t true. Donkeys can tolerate a lot of pain, and their survival instinct is very powerful. They will eat even if every bite hurts. Some donkeys can eat grass with relative ease, but when winter comes and they need to eat hay, they have difficulty chewing the more fibrous hay, and thus lose a lot of weight over the winter. When any animal is too thin, one of the first things to consider is dental issues. But, just because the horse or donkey is a good weight, don’t think that they do not need dental attention.
At Little Longears, we see an extraordinary amount of dental neglect in the animals we take in. It is very important for owners of donkeys (and equines of every kind) to understand that, at the very least, your animal should be taken care of by a licensed equine dental technician or your veterinarian at least once a year.
Here’s a good example of before and after treatment:
Delorey, Mary. “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Equine Dentistry.” AAEP, American Association of Equine Practitioners, 15 May 2018, https://aaep.org/issue/everything-you-ever-wanted-know-about-equine-dentistry. Accessed 1 August 2022.
“Donkey Dental Care: A Guide to Looking after Your Donkey’s Teeth,” Donkey Dental Care Advice, The Donkey Sanctuary, Jan. 2021, https://www.thedonkeysanctuary.org.uk/what-we-do/knowledge-and-advice/for-owners/dental-care. Accessed 1 August 2022.
“Donkey Dental Care: Looking After Your Donkey’s Teeth.” Factsheet, The Donkey Sanctuary, Jan. 2021, https://www.thedonkeysanctuary.org.uk/sites/uk/files/2021-05/donkey-dental-care-factsheet.pdf. Accessed 1 August 2022.
(Note: Equine dental instrument terminology can differ. The equine mouth gag and equine mouth speculum can be considered interchangeable terms.)