If you live on at least one to two acres of grass and want a unique pet, a miniature pet donkey may be for you. However, like any pet, miniature donkeys need training, food, shelter, and veterinary care, which means you must be fully committed before getting one.
Evaluating your commitment to a miniature donkey is especially important since they can live for an average of 25-30 years. John N. Stallone, a professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, said owners should be able to dedicate a minimum of one hour per day to the animal.
“This hour includes feeding twice a day and any grooming you might want to do, such as brushing their coat or cleaning feet,” Stallone said. “Most donkeys love human attention, so you would need more time if you take your donkey for a walk or do other activities, such as training to do obstacle courses or pulling a cart. Donkeys are very intelligent and learn quickly, whether it is a new trick or a bad habit.”
Additionally, miniature donkeys are a financial commitment. Stallone said owners should expect to pay for feed (usually hay), deworming every three months, trimming hooves every three to four months, and routine veterinary care such as yearly vaccinations for rabies, encephalitis viruses, and West Nile virus. Other expenses include dental care, which is advised every two to three years. It is also smart to budget for emergency veterinary care, in case something happens to your donkey.
Miniature donkeys also need appropriate shelter and a field in which to graze. Stallone recommended a three-sided shelter with the opening facing to the south.
“Miniature donkeys should have some pasture to graze on, as the grass intake will help to promote good intestinal motility and to prevent constipation or colic,” Stallone said. “Four hours of grazing per day will also help to prevent destructive behavior, such as wood chewing, which is sometimes called ‘cribbing.’” Cribbing can be bad because is it destructive to wooden structures such as fences, barns, and chairs.
However, because donkeys are much more efficient than horses in using their feed for energy, Stallone does not advise allowing your miniature donkey to graze on grass or hay 24/7. Additionally, feeding your donkey any kind of grain, such as pellets or oats, can promote obesity.
Even if you aren’t planning on extensively training your donkey to do obstacle courses or pull a cart carriage, all pet donkeys should get used to being around people.
“It’s fun to give them treats to promote friendliness and help with training, but avoid excessive treats because some donkeys will start to nip at fingers,” Stallone said. “A loud ‘No!’ will often stop this, as well as quickly pushing their muzzle away from you with your open hand. Avoid slapping or hitting the donkey on the head or face, as this will just cause the donkey to become ‘head shy’ and fear your hands.”
If you like being outside and are looking for an animal companion to grow old with, then consider a miniature donkey. Just be sure you are ready for the financial and care commitment.
Pet Talk is a service of the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. Stories can be viewed on the web at vetmed.tamu.edu/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.