Summer 2013


Felled by tick bite, this donkey is back to her old self

By Genevieve Rajewski

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Photo: Brad DeCecco

The 4-month-old miniature donkey named Daisy seemed a bit sluggish last fall. Her owners attributed it to the recent cold snap. A couple of days later, though, the foal was unable to stand.

Their local veterinarian, Stefani Gagliardi, of the Chatham Small Animal and Equine Medical Center in New York, made a house call to stabilize Daisy “and didn’t like what she saw,” says the donkey’s owner, Tom Crowell. She urged the Crowells to take Daisy to Tufts’ Hospital for Large Animals, two hours away.

“We loaded her into the back of our SUV and headed out I-90,” says Crowell.

As Daisy grew weaker and more lethargic, Cummings School veterinarians moved quickly to determine what was wrong. Blood work showed the donkey’s liver was failing, and her iron-starved blood cells struggled to carry enough oxygen through her body. An ultrasound showed a large amount of fluid around her lungs.

“It was surprising, because she wasn’t experiencing breathing difficulties,” says Daniela Bedenice, a large animal veterinarian. “We removed just under one and a half liters [of fluid], a lot for a little girl like her.”

Tufts veterinarians anticipated that an analysis of the fluid would reveal infection, heart failure or even cancer. “Neither heart disease nor cancer was a good prognosis,” says Crowell. “I hated the idea of breaking the news to our 11-year-old daughter.”

The news didn’t turn out to be so grim. Tests identified the culprit as granulocytic anaplasmosis, a bacterial disease transmitted by a tick bite. The bacterium infects wild and domesticated mammals, including horses, alpacas and dogs, as well as humans.

Daisy’s case “was unlike known reports in other species,” says Bedenice, noting that horses with anaplasmosis typically develop a fever and swelling in their legs.

The donkey spent 10 days at Tufts, receiving intravenous antibiotics while recuperating next to her mother, Marshmallow, who had made the trip in case her foal needed a blood transfusion. Daisy went home with a supply of oral antibiotics and iron supplements. Crowell says the donkey was none the worse for her ordeal: “She had a spring in her step and was back to her bouncy self.”

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