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Hyperlipidemia

This is a newborn mini donkey and her mother at a zoo where I used to work. The mother is way too fat for a donkey. The big neck is all fat deposits. This picture is typical of the types of donkeys that are most likely to be affected by hyperlipidemia. Momma got put on a diet to help her health out.

Hyperlipidemia is a disease that affects very fat donkeys, mules and ponies. Horses can also be affected, but not as often. The prognosis for this disease is not very good. Usually, more that 60% of animals affected, will not live. The purpose for this page is to help donkeys owners learn more about this problem and to be aware of the signs and treatment of this disease so that you can pass this information on to your vets. Many vets are not aware of this problem in donkeys.

What is Hyperlipidemia and what causes it?

Hyperlipidemia is a condition in which there is an elevated level of lipids(fat) in the blood stream. This includes both triglycerides and cholesterol being elevated. Hyperlipidemia can be caused by a genetic defect that affects fat metabolism. However, many cases of hyperlipidemia are actually secondary results of a different disease like diabetes or cushings disease. Obesity combined with stress of some type is one of the major factors leading to the hyperlipidemia. Other factors include hormonal imbalances, or losing weight to rapidly. Because of this sudden weight loss, or stress, the body hormones mistakenly think that the donkey is starving and causes the release of large amounts of fat that have been stored in the body cells. Due to the large amounts of fat in the blood stream, the brain also releases another hormone that shuts off the animals appetite.

What are the signs and symptoms?

If your donkey is obese and has any of the following symptoms please call your vet immediately. Symptoms of hyperlipidemia in donkeys includes the following:

Severe depression

Drowsiness

Un-coordinated movements

Colic

Diarrhea

Muscle Twitching

Loss of Appetite

What can your vet do to diagnose this problem?

When you suspect this problem in your donkey, your vet should pull blood for testing. When the blood is pulled it may look normal, but as it sets undisturbed in the refrigerator, the largest and lease dense lipoprotiens will rise to the top of the sample and leave a creamy film at the top. In addition, the blood may look thick and kind of bluish. Additional blood tests will show a blood triglyceride level of over 500mg/dl

What are the treatments for this disease?

The treatment for hyperlipidemia is difficult and not very successful at this time. The donkey will need to be put on a high carbohydrate, low fat feed and will most likely require intravenous glucose. Remember the important part of this is to keep the animal eating even though his system has shut off his appetite. You may want to use special enticements like beet pulp soaked in molasses or fruit juice, and add sliced up apples or carrots.

What can you do to prevent this disease?

You as a donkey owner can help prevent this disease from even happening. First of all the most important factor is to not let your donkey get to fat. Please feed your donkey appropriately for his size. A miniature Donkey does not need as much feed as a full grown horse even if he is working. Monitor your donkey for any unusual signs and have regular vet check ups. Monitor your donkeys stress levels and watch closely any jennies that are pregnant or nursing.

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