Hyperlipidemia in Donkeys

donkey image by jjsb88 from Fotolia.com

Donkeys, like all animals, have a special set of needs and special care instructions to assure they are healthy and happy. Unfortunately, there are a number of diseases and health concerns you may face. One possible condition is hyperlipidemia, also known as hyperlipemia.

Knowing about this condition will help you and your doctor better diagnosis and treat your donkey if it occurs.


Hyperlidipemia is a build-up of fat in your donkey's blood that can be related to a loss of liver function or other underlying problems. The build-up of fat is usually caused by a marked decrease in feed or when the quality of feed is low. Another common cause is overgrazing in a rich pasture. According to Ontario's Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs, donkeys do best when they eat coarser grass that is less rich in nutrients. Overgrazing can cause an increase in the fat build up. Another common factor that contributes to the condition is stress. During periods when your donkey should be taking in more nutrients, such as during pregnancy or other stressful times for the body, the condition can develop if your donkey is eating less or poor quality food.

Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of hyperlipidemia can vary from animal to animal. Not every animal will experience every symptom and those symptoms that are experienced will vary in severity. Commonly, the animal becomes weak and lethargic, which can be caused by a lack of food and water intake. Diarrhoea often occurs as a result of the change in food and water intake. Along with the lack of appetite, your donkey may become emaciated and begin to tremble. Also, since the liver is usually not functioning during the condition, if the liver is checked visually, it will be pale in colour and swollen. The liver also takes on a greasy texture.


If you suspect your donkey has hyperlipidemia, you will need to have a veterinarian evaluate the animal. Likewise, you need to have your donkey tested if it has not been eating feed for three or four days, according to the American Association of Equine Practitioners. Your vet will evaluate the donkey and take thorough history. If your donkey has had a history of the condition in the past or is showing symptoms of it, your vet may perform further tests. If blood is drawn, the animal's plasma will look either white or yellow in colour if hyperlipidemia is present. The blood will be analysed to determine the serum triglyceride levels. If they are over 500 mg/dl, according to Merck Veterinary Manual, that indicates that your donkey has hyperlipidemia.


Usually, treatment begins with intravenous fluids to keep your donkey hydrated. The other main step to treatment is ensuring proper nutrition for the animal. Preferably, if your donkey will eat on its own, this is encouraged. However, since most animals with hyperlipidemia have a loss of appetite, a feeding tube may be utilised. By correcting the nutritional intake, the animal's energy should increase as well as its insulin levels, helping to balance out your donkey's condition. Another key factor in treatment is identifying and treating any underlying conditions, such as liver failure.


The prognosis of a donkey with hyperlipidemia depends on a number of factors. Early detection can help in determining the underlying cause of the condition, which means better prognosis for the animal. In miniature breeds of donkeys, death is rare, but still can occur. The best chance your donkey has is for you to be aware of the potential warning signs and to act on them.