October 19, 2012

Helping a Bow Legged Donkey Become More Comfortable

Recently I was called out to work on a very old, bow-legged donkey.  This was a rescue animal and was in a lot of pain.  The owner wanted to do anything possible to relieve the pain, so she called me out to take a look.

Donkeys are naturally slightly cow-hocked (a conformation defect where the points of the hock are close together, the fetlocks wider apart than normal).  They are this way because they are a draft animal and descendants of draft animals. Draft animals are used for work, and being cow-hocked helps pull a load because the animal can more easily get it's feet under themselves to aid in pulling.

However, when severe cow-hocks are present, the leg’s bony column doesn’t line up, and the limb’s ability to handle loading forces is compromised. When viewed from the front, legs should not be knock-kneed or bowed.  If they are, twisting and torquing takes place with movement. This affects the joints and soft tissue structures because one side of the leg bears more force and weight than the other, causing pain and tension.  Being knock-kneed or bow-legged can limit the donkey's years and efficiency.

At first, I tried to build up a lateral wedge and hoof extension to help stabilize the leg, but the donkey couldn't stop rocking her legs.

 So I decided to glue a plastic shoe on and use it as the extension.  I built up the side of her hoofwall with SuperFast to help hold the shoe in place, and prevent it from moving upward as she walked. This seemed to immediately relieve some pain and help get the leg closer to where it needed to be.

This last picture shows how the foot was under the knee more that it had been after we applied the package to her foot.
The finished product wasn't beautiful to look at, but the important thing is that she was able to walk better after we were done. That made us all very happy.

 Above is a diagram of how the confirmation of legs can differ. The picture on the left (A) shows a bow-legged animal.  Picture (B) shows a knock-kneed animal, and (C) shows an offset bench kneed animal. All of these are confirmation conditions that can cause issues with the animal. 

Thank you all for your time!