Buttonbush, an incredibly cute 7-day-old mini donkey colt owned by Lynda Smet of Amissville, Virginia, visited the Equine Medical Center with his dam Marley for emergency evaluation and treatment.

Initially, after an uneventful delivery, he seemed to be thriving; but at seven days old, he appeared lethargic and had stopped nursing.

Steve White of White Oak Veterinary Service was called and referred Buttonbush to the Equine Medical Center for further diagnostics and treatment.

When Buttonbush arrived at the center, he was lethargic and dull, down in the trailer, and so was carried by the center’s staff into a stall for clinical evaluation. Weighing in at a mere 34 lbs., the little guy showed signs of  dehydration, had increased lung sounds, and had started to pass watery diarrhea.


Krista Estell, clinical assistant professor of equine medicine, and medicine resident Stephanie Hernandez assessed Buttonbush and recommended aggressive medical management and supportive care.

Over the next few hours, Buttonbush was administered fluid therapy, antibiotics, and gastrointestinal support and was carefully monitored. By the following morning, he was able to successfully nurse for short periods of time. Not only did his diarrhea resolve, his vital parameters improved, enabling fluid therapy to be tapered gradually, but systemic antibiotics and supportive care were continued.

By the evening of Buttonbush’s third day in the hospital, fluid therapy was completely discontinued, and he was allowed to nurse free-choice from his dam. For the remainder of his stay, he was bright and alert with no signs of colic or diarrhea.

After a total of five days in the center's neonatal ICU, Marley and Buttonbush were ready to go home to Amissville. “Thanks to the excellent care at the Equine Medical Center, our little guy is thriving,” Lynda said. “We are so appreciative!”


Written by Sharon Peart for the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine.