Skip to main content Accessibility help

Necropsy survey of gastric ulcers in a population of aged donkeys: prevalence, lesion description and risk factors

  • F. A. Burden (a1), J. Gallagher (a1), A. K. Thiemann (a1) and A. F. Trawford (a1)

There is no information about the prevalence of gastric ulceration in donkeys or potential risk factors for its presence in donkeys. The donkey is a stoic, hardy animal that has not previously been thought to suffer from this disease. However, gastric ulceration was found to be a problem in a population of non-working UK donkeys resident at the Donkey Sanctuary and its prevalence was estimated by examining necropsy data over a 2-year period during 2005 to 2006. Associations with clinical and management factors were determined. In total, 426 donkeys were examined at necropsy to determine the presence of gastric ulceration. Lesions were described and scored according to a four-point scale. Management and clinical data from these donkeys were analysed to identify potential risk factors for the presence of gastric ulceration. Terminal blood samples were also studied to determine whether animals were exhibiting hyperlipaemia prior to death. Results showed that 41% (n = 174) of the donkeys studied had evidence of gastric ulceration at necropsy. Most (49%) of the ulcers were of a medium size (area of ⩾2 cm2 – <10 cm2) and the most common site for ulcers was the margo plicatus. Of the donkeys examined, 18% had hyperlipaemia prior to or death or euthanasia and this was a risk factor for donkeys developing gastric ulceration; 62% of hyperlipaemia cases also displayed gastric ulceration (P < 0.001). Kidney disease was a potential risk factor (P = 0.02), with 74% of these animals having gastric ulceration. Donkeys that died or were euthanased due to respiratory disease were at a decreased risk of developing ulceration (P = 0.01) Donkeys fed a carbohydrate-based diet were more likely (P < 0.001) to have gastric ulceration than those fed a fibre-only diet, with 55% having gastric ulceration compared with 33% in the fibre-only group. This study has shown that gastric ulceration is commonly observed in donkeys at necropsy and may be extensive.

Corresponding author
Hide All
Andrews, FM, Sifferman, RL, Bernard, W, Hughes, FE, Holste, JE, Daurio, CP, Alva, R, Cox, J 1999. Efficacy of ompeprazole paste in treatment and prevention of gastric ulcers in horses. Equine Veterinary Journal Supplement 29, 8186.
Andrews, FM, Buchanan, BR, Elliott, SB, Al Jassim, RAM, McGowan, CM, Saxton, AM 2008. In vitro effects of hydrochloric and lactic acids on bioelectric properties of equine gastric squamous mucosa. Equine Veterinary Journal 40, 301305.
Ashley, FH, Waterman-Pearson, AE, Whay, HR 2005. Behavioural assessment of pain in horses and donkeys: application to clinical practice and future studies. Equine Veterinary Journal 37, 565575.
Begg, LM, O’Sullivan, CB 2003. The prevalence and distribution of gastric ulceration in 345 racehorses. Australian Veterinary Journal 81, 199201.
Chameroy, KA, Nadeau, JA, Bushmisch, SL, Dinger, JE, Hoagland, TA, Saxton, AM 2006. Prevalence of non-glandular gastric ulcers in horses involved in a university riding program. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science 26, 207211.
Crane, M 1996. Medical. In The professional handbook of the donkey (ed. ED Svendsen), 3rd edition, pp. 1935. Whittet Books Ltd, London.
Hartmann, AM, Frankeny, RL 2003. A preliminary investigation into the association between competition and gastric ulcer formation in nonracing performance horses. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science 23, 560561.
Le Jeune, SS, Nieto, JE, Dechant, JE and Snyder, JR 2008. Prevalence of gastric ulcers in thoroughbred broodmares in pasture: a preliminary report. The Veterinary Journal, doi:10.1016/j.tvjl.2008.03.020 (in press).
Matthews, NS, Van Dijk, P 2004. Anaesthesia and analgesia for donkeys. In Veterinary care of donkeys (ed. NS Matthews and TS Taylor). International Veterinary Information Service, Ithaca, New York.
Matthews, NS, Peck, KE, Taylor, TS, Mealey, KL 2001. Pharmacokinetics of phenylbutazone and its metabolite oxyphenbutazone in miniature donkeys. American Journal of Veterinary Research 62, 673675.
McAllister, CG, Andrews, FM, Deegan, E, Ruoff, W, Olofsson, SG 1997. A scoring system for gastric ulcers in the horse. Equine Veterinary Journal 29, 430433.
Murray, MJ 1991. The pathogenesis and prevalence of gastric ulceration in foals and horses. Veterinary Medicine 8, 815819.
Murray, MJ, Eichorn, ES 1996. Effects of intermittent feed deprivation with ranitidine administration and stall confinement with ad libitum access to hay on gastric ulceration in horses. American Journal of Veterinary Research 57, 15991603.
Murray, MJ, Schusser, GF 1993. Measurement of 24-h gastric pH using an indwelling pH electrode in horses unfed, fed and treated with ranitidine. Equine Veterinary Journal 25, 417421.
Murray, MJ, Schusser, GF, Pipers, FS, Gross, SJ 1996. Factors associated with gastric lesions in thoroughbred racehorses. Equine Veterinary Journal 28, 368374.
Nadeau, JA, Andrews, FM, Mathews, AG, Argenzio, RA, Blackford, JT 1998. The effect of diet on the severity of gastric ulcers in horses. Gastroenterology 114, A238.
Orsini, JA, Pipers, FS 1997. Endoscopic evaluation of the relationships between training, racing and gastric ulcers. Veterinary Surgery 26, 424.
Rabuffo, TS, Orsini, JA, Sullivan, E, Engiles, J, Norman, T, Boston, R 2002. Associations between age or sex and prevalence of gastric ulceration in standard bred racehorses in training. Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association 221, 11561159.
Sandin, A, Skidell, J, Haggstrom, J, Nilsson, G 2000. Postmortem findings of gastric ulcers in Swedish horses older than age one year: a retrospective study of 3715 horses (1924 to 1996). Equine Veterinary Journal 32, 3642.
Vatistas, NJ, Sifferman, RL, Holste, J, Cox, JL, Pinalto, G, Schultz, KT 1999. Induction and maintenance of the gastric ulceration in horses in simulated race training. Equine Veterinary Journal 29, 4044.
White, G, McClure, SR, Sifferman, R, Holste, JE, Fleishman, C, Murray, MJ, Cramer, LG 2007. Effects of short-term light to heavy exercise on gastric ulcer development in horses and efficacy of omeprazole paste in preventing gastric ulceration. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 230, 16801682.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

  • ISSN: 1751-7311
  • EISSN: 1751-732X
  • URL: /core/journals/animal
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed