Stories of Star Horses
SOLO SURVIVES COLIC SURGERY!
Solo the donkey started showing signs of colic (flank-watching and rolling) one afternoon in early November. He was seen by the vet and initially settled to medical treatment (painkillers) but then re-colicked in the middle of the night and got progressively more painful. Examination in the field confirmed that Solo most likely had a type of colic that would only resolve with surgery. His vet was worried about the level of pain he was showing as donkeys are very stoic animals and it usually takes a lot to make them show pain. His dedicated and caring owners wanted to give him every possible chance and so he was brought into our hospital in the early hours of the morning, together with his best friend Buffy (donkeys are strongly bonded to their companions and will become distressed and depressed when separated from them). Solo continued to be painful despite having received the strongest painkillers and his abdomen was getting increasingly distended and barrel-shaped. Colic surgery was the only option to relieve his pain and keep him alive.
Anaesthesia was challenging at the start of surgery as, when put on the operating table (upside down), his very distended guts were pushing against his diaphragm, making getting Solo to breathe very difficult! When Russell, our surgeon, opened up Solo’s abdomen he found a severely distended and displaced (in the wrong position and twisted) portion of his large colon and another portion was heavily impacted (blocked) with food material and a large quantity of sand. The colon was decompressed (gas sucked out) and re-positioned and the blocked portion was opened up and cleared out. Solo was assisted to stand up after anaesthesia (something we are not usually able to do due to the large size of the majority of our patients) and visibly perked up when he was lead back into his stable and laid eyes on best friend Buffy.
After surgery Solo received intensive medical therapy (fluids into his vein, antibiotics and painkillers) and round-the-clock nursing from our team. 3 days after his operation, Solo became inappetant and this made his vet very worried (as when donkeys don’t eat that can develop a condition called hyperlipaemia, which can be fatal). We tried EVERYTHING to tempt Solo to eat - a list which included but was not limited to - grass, gorse, thistle, pony nuts, molasses, carrots, bananas, biscuits, jam sandwiches, THE LOT, but to no avail! Solo had to be given glucose into his vein and stomach-tubed with a special recipe of Redibrek, glucose and electrolytes. Finally his owners, after being told to think out–of-the-box, decided to try some ice cream and that seemed to do the trick! Solo began eating again and never looked back! He and Buffy returned home a week and a half after Solo’s surgery. Solo is now happily resting and grazing in his pen-sized paddock at home, has had his stitches removed and will be able to go on long walks and outings with his owners in 5 weeks time. What a brave little donkey – Solo the Survivor!
Almost 3 months have passed since Solo’s surgery and he is still doing exceptionally well, happily grazing in his field together with his best friend Buffy.
Keri-Lee Dobbie BSc BVSc MRCVS
[Keri-Lee has a special interest and love for donkeys and has worked as a volunteer veterinary surgeon for SPANA (Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad), providing veterinary care for working donkeys in Morocco)