Caring for Long Ears

Donkeys and mules have a reputation for being hardier than horses, but they require the same basic care.
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Donkeys and mules have a reputation for being hardier than horses, but they require the same basic care and are prone to unique health issues.

A sturdy little donkey grazes happily in a roadside pasture, ears flopping and tail swishing. His belly is round, his feet solid, and his thick, coarse coat appears as if it could protect him from even the nastiest weather. Considering this typical image of a donkey in good health, it’s no wonder some people believe mules and donkeys to be so very durable, compared with horses, that they are immune to many equine diseases or conditions. This, however, is a myth.

"Donkeys and mules (offspring of a male donkey and a mare) are not immune, just more resistant," says Robert M. Miller, DVM, an equine veterinarian from Thousand Oaks, Calif., who has owned and treated donkeys and mules for decades. "They are injured less often, less prone to colic, and less apt to develop common equine illness, with a handful of exceptions."

Despite their reputation for hardiness, donkeys and mules require the same basic care approaches that horses do, such as teeth floating, hoof maintenance, routine vaccinations, and deworming. What’s more, they are even prone to health issues unique to their kind

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Written by:

Heather Smith Thomas ranches with her husband near Salmon, Idaho, raising cattle and a few horses. She has a B.A. in English and history from University of Puget Sound (1966). She has raised and trained horses for 50 years, and has been writing freelance articles and books nearly that long, publishing 20 books and more than 9,000 articles for horse and livestock publications. Some of her books include Understanding Equine Hoof Care, The Horse Conformation Handbook, Care and Management of Horses, Storey’s Guide to Raising Horses and Storey’s Guide to Training Horses. Besides having her own blog,, she writes a biweekly blog at that comes out on Tuesdays.

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