A donkey's owner adjusts her harness

Hiba the donkey was losing weight and refusing to eat or drink. A critical lifeline for her arthritic owner Hussein, time was running out to save the animal’s life.

Every morning, 70-year-old Hussein struggles down the path that leads from his home to the stables to greet his beloved donkey Hiba. Without Hiba, Hussein would be almost entirely housebound as his arthritis has progressively limited his mobility over the past few years. Hiba offers the widower a crucial lifeline here in rural Tunisia where it often takes hours to get to the nearest town or village.

A vet examines a donkeyHiba is not only a form of transportation for her owner, but a well-loved pet. She enjoys the best food Hussein can afford for her and normally keeps a good level of health.

So it was immediately apparent that something was wrong when she began refusing food and water one morning.  Over the course of the next few days, Hiba’s appetite completely disappeared and she began to lose weight quickly. Hussein was frightened and knew that he needed to find help quickly.

Like so many working donkeys, essential veterinary care isn’t readily available to Hiba. However, Hiba was in luck as this was the week that SPANA’s team were visiting the remote community and he knew that he could count on our help to look after his trusted donkey.

A vet administers anti-parasite medicine

Hussein woke before dawn to make sure he was one of the first owners to be seen by our clinic. Thanks to the generosity of a neighbour with a pickup truck, Hussein and Hiba were transported to our clinic where our vets immediately got to work examining the sick animal. Our team quickly identified the source of the weight loss – a bad case of parasites picked up by Hiba as she grazed in her paddock alongside other horses. If left untreated, the parasitic infection would continue to worsen and could eventually result in colic, anaemia and dramatic weight loss.

Luckily the treatment was a simple one. Vets first gave Hiba intravenous fluids to rehydrate her before administering anti-parasitic medication. They team gave Hussein detailed instructions on what to feed Hiba to help her recover her weight and stamina as well as how to prevent parasites in the future. Within days she would start to recover her weight and would be on the mend.

Hussein was brought to tears, so grateful for the lifesaving intervention of the SPANA vets. He said,

She’s like my legs, without her I’d be stuck in my house.

He promised to follow the team’s recommendations and provide Hiba with the care she would need to recover.

Hiba's owner readjusts her harness

For so many owners like Hussein, it is not a lack of compassion but rather resources that means the difference of life and death for their working animals. But thanks to SPANA’s presence here in Tunisia, we can ensure that more owners and their animals like Hussein and Hiba can enjoy many more happy years together.

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