Do Donkeys Pose a Disease Threat to Horses at Events?

Researchers found no evidence that donkeys pose more of a disease threat than horses at mixed-equine events.
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Do Donkeys Pose a Disease Threat to Horses at Events
Researchers found no evidence that donkeys pose more of a disease threat than horses at mixed-equine events. | Photo: iStock
In Ireland, some people believe that donkeys pose a greater risk than do horses of transmitting infectious diseases to horses and ponies, a belief that could be a contributing factor to the increasing abandonment or neglect of donkeys in the country. But does this belief hold merit? Researchers recently took a closer look to find out.

“Donkeys share essentially the same disease-causing organisms as horses and can thus both suffer and transmit the same diseases,” explained Joe Collins, MVB, PhD, MRCVS, director at Deerpark Veterinary Services and senior donkey welfare advisor at the Donkey Sanctuary Ireland, in Mallow, both in County Cork, Ireland.

Collins said there is a belief that, because donkeys are stoic and tend to show less obvious signs of disease, owners or veterinarians might not immediately recognize an animal is ill. Still, he said, “we uncovered no evidence that donkeys are more of a threat to the horse population than other horses through attending mixed-equine events.”

The Irish equine industry is particularly concerned about the introduction and spread of diseases such as equine infectious anemia, equine viral arteritis, and African horse sickness. “In terms of exotic disease there is currently, to my knowledge, little import of donkeys into Ireland and far fewer donkeys than horses traveling to races, to stud, etc.,” Collins noted

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Written by:

Katie Navarra has worked as a freelance writer since 2001. A lifelong horse lover, she owns and enjoys competing a dun Quarter Horse mare.

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