Anatomy & histologyDiagnosisDonkeysTreatment and prevention

Signs of laminitis in donkeys

Even though laminitis is not a hoof disease, its worst and most obvious characteristics are found in the hooves. To be able to correctly interpret signs of laminitis in donkeys it is necessary to know the following.

  • The horizontal ridges (laminitic rings) in the hoof wall caused by laminitis are less evident in donkey hooves than in horse hooves.
    A donkey coffin bone has a slightly different shape than that of a horse. It is narrower, longer and U-shaped. It is important to keep this in mind when evaluating radiographs.
  • The lamellar connection of a donkey hoof consists of fewer lamellae than can be counted in a horse hoof. This is the reason why donkeys are more prone to white line separation, the partial detachment of the connection between hoof wall and coffin bone.
  • Donkeys are also more susceptible to white line disease, the deterioration of the white line by a combination of bacteria and fungi.

White line disease
(Photo: Marike Haase)

  • The sole of a donkey hoof grows almost at the same rate as the hoof wall. Find a hoof care provider that has experience with the maintenance of donkey feet.
  • The toe angle of donkey hooves is often trimmed too acute. As a result the rotated coffin bone will then press harder onto the sole and cause more pain. Also in donkey hooves the goal is to trim the coffin bone parallel to the ground.


Speaking of trimming, many donkeys do not get enough hoof maintenance because of the following three reasons. Firstly, because the sole grows considerably the hoof wall looks like it is only sticking out a little. In reality, both hoof wall and sole can be centimetres (inches) too long. Secondly, many hoof care providers find donkeys difficult or annoying to deal with. It can be difficult to find someone who is willing to trim your donkey. Finally, there is the value of the donkey. When the donkey is just the pasture buddy of the riding horse it may be lower down on the list of priorities. The owner might not want to spend a lot of money on the donkey. If the hoof care provider says that donkeys only need two trims per year, chances are slim the donkey will get sufficient hoof care. A donkey should be trimmed just as often as a horse.

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  1. Terri S PARKER

    What does a red ring around my donkey’s hoof, just under the coronary band mean? If it’s a sign of founder, what will happen to the hoof?

    • Remco Sikkel

      I’m very sorry for the late response. That ring could definitely be a sign of a bout of laminitis. I am afraid that you might know by experience now, what followed. I hope your donkey is doing better now.

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