Max's Story

The pandemic has changed life here at the Sanctuary for everyone. We have not been able to have visitors to the farm this year, and we have had to limit staff and volunteer contact with the animals to protect our operations and ensure safety for our animals and staff. One thing that hasn't changed, however, is our commitment for caring for the animals in the same way we always have.

Max is one of the animals currently living at the farm, and we are committed to providing him with a high level of care. Since his arrival in the winter of 2017, Max has always been a "hard keeper", an equine-industry term that means that he is one of our more difficult donkeys to provide care for. A loveable donkey with a peculiar personality, Max is well aware that he is one of the largest donkeys at the Sanctuary, and he loves to test the limits of staff's patience during his treatment and training. He is also one of our donkeys that requires consistent training to manage his behaviour, which is partly because he wasn't castrated until his mid-twenties. But staff, volunteers and visitors all love this big guy nonetheless!

Unfortunately, in addition to his behavioral challenges, Max also arrived at the Sanctuary facing several health challenges. Max is a very picky eater and it is a consistent struggle for him to maintain a healthy weight. To help him maintain a healthy weight, Max receives a special diet of seven cups of grain twice a day. He also is given hay in his stall overnight. In the summer of 2018, staff started to notice that Max's hocks had started to swell on the inside. Our veterinarian determined that they were either from trauma or hydromas (which are essentially fluid-filled sacs). The x-ray also showed that Max had irregular bony protrusions on both hocks that could either be cancerous or just an abnormality. The swelling got progressively worse, so our veterinarian prescribed Previcox for Max, which is a veterinary anti-inflammatory that proved effective to reduce his pain and swelling which was confirmed by x-rays taken a month later that showed no further growth of the bony protrusions. Max remains on Previcox to this day.

As with other aging animals, however, Max's health issues unfortunately continued to manifest themselves. In the fall of 2019, staff noticed a large bump forming on his front left knee which he was reactive to, especially during his visits with our farrier. Our veterinarian took x-rays once again and found that severe osteoarthritis had developed there. Max's treatment plan was then changed to include phenylbutzone, a stronger anti-inflammatory drug, for when Max received his hoof trims. Max then started to have a hard time standing up in his stall in the spring of 2020.Attempts to move him to a larger treatment stall were ineffective as Max, who does not much like stalls to begin with, repeatedly tried to barge through the door! Our veterinarian and animal care staff recently decided that the best course of treatment was an injection of a steroid into the joints that were causing him pain. Max was sedated for this injection, and after carefully sterilizing the injection sites, he was injected. We are hopeful that this will provide Max with significant pain relief for up to a year before it may have to be re-administered.

As the majority of our population are now in old age (for a donkey this is 20 years old or older), their day-to-day healthcare needs are only likely to increase. Animals like Max will have to maintain special diets, daily medications and procedures to keep them healthy. The pandemic may have shifted how we do things at the Sanctuary, but our animals' needs and our commitment to meeting them, has not changed. Importantly, the cost of providing this care has not changed either, and with the Sanctuary being forced to cancel its Summer Open Day season, we are more reliant than ever on generous gifts from you-our loyal supporters-to provide for our animals.