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THE world's donkey population is estimated at 44 million, compared to about 58 million horses (FAO 2007). In developed countries, donkeys are often considered less economically valuable than horses. However, they are of profound importance as working animals in developing countries (Starkey and Starkey 1996). Although the use of animal power is declining in some parts of the world, there are still upward trends in the use of donkeys in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Central Asia (FAO 2015). Donkeys have a relatively low cost, are easy to manage and are resistant to drought (Anon 2003). They are vital to many poor households as a direct or indirect source of income, for example, by transporting water and feed for other livestock (Valette 2014).
In contrast, the number of scientific publications regarding donkey health lags far behind those about horses. As a result, veterinarians often assume that the same diseases can be expected as in horses. Although there are many similarities, donkeys show substantial differences regarding their behaviour, pain response, thirst tolerance, metabolism and gut function (Burden and Thiemann 2015). Compared to horses, donkeys have a higher life expectancy and may have a lifespan of 30 to 50 years. Therefore, the numbers of geriatric donkeys are high in developed countries, where donkeys are kept as pets or for riding (Cox and others 2010). The mean (sd) age …