Donkeys teeth are not unlike horses – and grow continuously. You can age a donkey by its teeth up to around the age of 15. Thereafter it is a bit of a guess but you can at least tell ‘old’ from ‘very old’. Some donkeys can develop ‘wolf teeth’ which can interfere with the action of a bit and make their mouths most uncomfortable. It is good practice to have an equine dentist check out your donkeys once a year and rasp down any sharp points that are developing.
Ageing By Teeth (or how you do it for a horse)
Estimating the age of a horse by examining its teeth is a common practice. For very young horses, eruption dates are useful, but in general, the place to start is examination of the biting surface of the lower incisors. Similar changes occur on the upper incisors, but it is typically easier to get a good look at the lowers. Two characteristics should be noted:
Shape of the incisors: For horses less than about 11 years, all of the lower incisors have a rounded, oval shape. As the horse gets older, the surface of the incisors changes, first to a triangular shape and finally a rectangular shape.
Cups, stars and spots: The cup is the center of the top or bottom biting surface of the tooth. Wear of the surface causes the cup to get smaller and eventually disappear from all lower incisors at about 8 years of age leaving the enamel spot in its place. The enamel spot is the deepest part of the tooth surface. The dental star corresponds with the pulp cavity and appears at 8 years of age in the first incisor. It appears as a line and then changes to a large, round spot as the surface is worn further. It is still visible after the cup and enamel spot have been worn away.
Another dental feature useful for aging older horses is Galvayne's groove. Galvayne's groove is located on the outside surface of the upper third incisor. It appears first near the gum line at about 10 years of age. The groove extends halfway down the tooth at 15 years, and all the way down the tooth by 20 years. By approximately 25 years, Galvayne's groove is halfway gone, and by 30 years, it has disappeared completely.
In the wild, feet will wear down naturally as the donkey travels over rough hard ground. Here in the UK, this isn’t going to happen so you must get a farrier to visit and trim the foot every 6- 8 weeks. Donkeys very seldom need shoeing (I don’t know of any shod donkeys). Feet must be picked out with a hoof pick to ensure that no foreign bodies lodge there to cause lameness. Donkey hooves are a different shape to a horse – and tend to be more ‘boxy’ and upright. This is not a fault, it’s just the way donkey feet are. A very common form of neglect is ‘turkish slipper’ long curled up toes and there is no excuse for allowing your donkey to look like this.