donkey choke

What are the symptoms of choke?

This article on donkey care is about choke. One of those things that rarely occurs with donkeys yet it happened to one of mine! To date, choke is one of the scariest things I’ve dealt with! 

Choke in horses is fairly common, especially for older horses. Sometimes choke symptoms may be subtle. Like they don’t want to eat, seem worried or anxious. They may show signs of discomfort, such as sweating or pawing. Most of the time they cough and gag horribly though. They extend their neck and sometimes shake their head. They drool heavily and expels discharge that includes bits of food from his nostrils. 

Since donkeys (and horses) can’t breathe through their mouths the way people can, many people may think the donkey wouldn’t be in danger. True, choking donkeys are not in danger of suffocation, but the situation can become serious if the obstruction is not removed. Besides the obvious, the donkey can not eat or drink there are other risks if the issue is not addressed. 

Esophageal tissues at the blockage site begin to swell and may become so irritated that they ulcerate. This type of injury can cause scar tissue which increases the chance that your horse might choke again.

Another complication occurs when saliva backs up behind the obstruction and then is pushed into the trachea. The saliva drains harmlessly from the nostrils, but saliva and grain particles may also be drawn into the lungs, resulting in pneumonia. 

Here is a short video of what horse choke looks like. It’s a horse example but when my donkey choked it looked the same.

What to do if your donkey is choking

  1. Call your vet! Because there is nothing you can really do if your donkey is seriously choking but have it tubed to remove the obstruction. Do not hesitate on this because damage and pneumonia can set up fairly quickly.
  2. Remove all feed from the area. Even though it’s not likely the choking victim will eat you never know.
  3. Try to feel for the lump and massage it down if possible. I was able to do this with a senior horse to remove the obstruction but not my donkey.
  4. What you can do until you vet gets to your farm is aid your donkey with essential oils that can help relax and calm! Your horse will need this support and honestly so will you! It’s stressful! 

Personal Experience with Choke

When my donkey choked badly a few weeks ago she was so highly stressed and going into a panic. Her panicking was just going to make it worse. Thankfully I had my stress relief blend on hand and that helped her tremendously.

My vet had suggested I offer her water once she had calmed down while I waited. If she could swallow a little maybe that could help it move out. Since she could swallow a little so I gave her Valerian tincture which really relaxed her! First I let her smell it to make sure she wanted it. She hadn’t tried to eat anything so when she tried to lip the bottle I took it as a ‘yes please!’

By the time the vet arrived she was wheezing and occasionally couching but relaxed and the vet commented on how calm she seemed.

donkey care

BTW: I highly recommend having Valerian on hand! It’s highly beneficial for calming donkeys in any stressful situation. You can make your own or you can buy it ready made 

This natural donkey care remedy helped support her tremendously. Her obstruction was fairly large but the vet was able to tube her and remove it quickly. Your vet can then tell you how to proceed after that. Typically withholding hay and grain a few days is called for. My girl was allowed some grass since we had pasture in but that was it for 3 days.

Here is the formula for the blend of essential oils I used. I’ve used them many times to aid my horses and donkeys in stressful times. It’s a wonderful combination. Donkey Care [Calming a Stressed Donkey]

For More Essential Oils for Donkeys

Check out my ebook for instructions on putting together your own basic kit, an extended list of safe oils for donkeys, a dilution chart and more. Available on Amazon. Click picture for more information.

essential oils for donkeys

Causes of choke

The biggest offender is pellets! My senior horse, a young horse, and my donkey all choked on grass pellets. Grain and forage hay cubes are also causes. They can also choked on baling twine, plastic, their bedding and just about anything they can get in their mouths! Even hay! The thing is, if they don’t chew it properly the higher risk they can choke. 

Another cause of choke could be poor dental health. If food isn’t chewed properly this causes choking. My senior horse is missing some of her front teeth so I’m sure this had to do with the reason she choked. 

Competition can cause a donkey to chew their food poorly because they are trying hard to gobble it all down as quickly as possible! 

How to prevent Choke in Donkeys

  1. Soak ALL grain and pellets! If you have a senior donkey with missing teeth you may need to even soak hay. 
  2. Make sure your donkeys are in good dental health so they can chew their food properly.
  3. Make sure your donkeys aren’t rapidly taking in food because of competition. Feed separately if possible. 
  4. Feed in shallow pans on the ground. This way the donkey can fully extend their neck to allow for their natural feeding position
  5. It goes without saying probably but make sure your donkeys have plenty of fresh clean water and that they are drinking regularly

Some equine are prone to choke. Here is an article on preventing choke in Choke Prone horses: Feeding Choke Prone Horses

Donkey Care for Choke Conclusion

So donkey choke isn’t immediately life-threatening typically. But your donkey can die from it if not treated properly and in a timely manner. I hope this post helps anyone dealing with it now or just researching for the future. It’s always good to be prepared! 

Hey Donkey Lovers!

One more thing. If you are passionate about donkeys I invite you to sign up for my email list. My Donkey Lovers List is about sharing natural donkey care formulas for health support, as well as fun training tips and ideas! I design donkey themed clothing and decor to show off your love of donkeys too so I can make you aware of sales and coupons.

Sharing case studies of my training adventures and donkeys stories sometimes because I always find case studies so very helpful and interesting! Donkeys are such individuals and the more we can learn from others and their donkeys the more we can better help our own!