We wanted to ensure owners of smaller breeds of ponies and donkeys, including miniatures, are aware of a potentially life threatening condition called Hyperlipaemia. This is not meant to make people panic or worry, but we feel it’s important to highlight certain illnesses and conditions so we know how to spot the symptoms and help prevent the causes.
What is Hyperlipaemia?
It is a metabolic disease that effects, in particular, small donkeys and ponies which more often than not results in death. In simple terms, they get increased fats in the bloodstream.
What happens ?
When the equine stops eating enough, the essential organs still require a food supply, so the body tries to use the energy that is stored as fat deposits. The result is that free fatty acids are circulated to the liver to be converted to glucose for use by the body. This system is controlled by complex hormonal events, which should shut down the amount of fat released from fat stores as the liver produces the glucose for the body. Sadly donkeys and small ponies are not able to efficiently turn off the fat release and the blood soon fills up with excess fat in circulation. Large amounts of fat cause the liver and kidneys to degenerate and fail, and eventually all the organs in the body fail, this results in irreversible damage and death follows soon after.
What are some of the contributory factors?
- Being overweight
- Food deprivation
- Hormonal changes due to pregnancy or lactation
- Dental problems
- Internal parasites
What are the signs?
- Poor appetite
- Rise in temperature
- Head pressing
- Staggering around
- Lastly animals collapse and have seizures before death
How can I help prevent this?
Carefully monitor your equines body condition and diet. Do not put on starvation diets as this is one of the main causes of hyperlipaemia. Do not allow to get obese (you also have the risk of laminitis with this). Avoid stressful situations or trauma wherever possible, especially in foal mares. Keep to a regular worming program that is recommended for your pony/donkey. In inclement weather ensure they have shelter and that old and thin equines are rugged.
If you suspect your equine is unwell or is showing any of these signs call your vet immediately. It is possible to be treated if diagnosed early enough but time is of the essence with this condition. Lastly, never be worried about suggesting possible conditions or diseases to your vet – you never know, it may just save your animals life.