Today we have several annual vaccination programmes for food animals such as cattle, goats and sheep that are carried out against major diseases such as Foot and mouth.
There are also vaccinations for pets, especially dogs, against rabies, parvovirus disease and others that the public is mostly aware of.
I never heard about the vaccination of donkeys when I was in primary school. Even now it is hard to find. But like other animals, donkeys need vaccination against some common diseases that affect them.
Donkeys belong to the Equidae family which includes horses and zebras. Perhaps horses are the most vaccinated species in this family and they have scheduled vaccination regimes, especially the registered ones. The diseases are almost equally suffered by donkeys and hence it is important to vaccinate them too.
Here in Kenya vaccination of donkeys is very minimal and in most cases done privately by the owners. Tetanus is a highly fatal disease that also affects donkeys and donkey owners are worried.
The disease is caused by a bacterial toxin from Clostridium tetani which gains entry into the body through wounds either due to poor harnessing, a procedure such as castration or piercing.
Some donkey owners, due to the lack of knowledge, have previously thought it is a hoof problem and end up trimming the hooves badly. This disease can be prevented by vaccination from the point of weaning and should be repeated after one month and then done annually.
Rabies is another zoonotic disease of public health concern that should be prevented also in donkeys. Last year in November there were cases of confirmed rabies cases in donkeys in Kasarani sub-county in Nairobi which KENDAT in partnership with the county directorate of veterinary services intervened by carrying out vaccinations and public education. Rabies in the wild is maintained by hyenas while in human population dog is the major source. It is transmitted through biting by a rabies-infected animal. Control of rabies is by targeting over 70 per cent of the dog population with
vaccination and donkeys that are at risk just like cattle need vaccination too.
Anthrax is a bacterial disease that causes sudden deaths in farm animals and is also zoonotic. A lot of human cases are reported especially when they consume cow carcass that died of anthrax. The disease is caused by the bacteria Bacillus anthracis and their spores can stay in the environment for up to 100 years. The disease also affects donkeys and just like other herbivores such as cattle the cases are characterized by sudden deaths and blood oozing from the orifices.
Other vaccinations are not carried out here in Kenya because some diseases have not been reported to be present in the country though there have been suspected cases. One is African Horse Sickness which is a serious disease though it is not as severe in donkeys as it is in horses. Donkeys in other parts of the world where the disease has been reported are vaccinated for the disease.
Dr Ronald Sang is a Veterinary Services Officer at the Kenya Network for Dissemination of Agricultural Technologies
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