Demba’s Tetanus Risk

A donkey and his owner wait for treatment at a Bamako, Mali mobile clinic

Demba’s Tetanus Risk

Tetanus is a terrible disease that threatens thousands of working animals every year, but can be easily prevented. Demba was one of the donkeys at serious risk and SPANA vets knew that, without action, his wound could develop into something life-threatening.

A donkey with skin lesions and possible tetanus waits for treatment at the Bamako, Mali rubbish dumps

Every day, Demba the donkey pulls heavy loads of rubbish up the steep and dangerous slopes of the Badalabougou rubbish dump in Mali’s capital, Bamako. The donkey and his owner, Ali, must navigate sharp scraps of metal and broken glass as they make their way to the top of the enormous piles of rubbish. Once there, Ali empties Demba’s cart before leading the 12-year-old donkey back down into town to repeat the process again.

Cuts and injuries are a constant threat for both the donkeys and their owners. Unfortunately, Demba sustained a deep wound on his left hip, which may have been exacerbated by an ill-fitting harness. The wound had become infected, with a painful abscess forming.

Thankfully, the SPANA mobile clinic visits the dumps regularly and our vets immediately examined the donkey to begin treatment of the injury. However, they recognised an even greater threat to Demba – tetanus.

A SPANA Mali vet treats a donkey's skin abscess outside of a rubbish dump in Bamako

In these harsh working conditions, infection and injury are rife, and one of the greatest dangers is tetanus. The infectious bacteria breeds in filthy conditions like the dumps and its toxins can enter the animals’ bodies through even the smallest of cuts and scratches. Once in the animal’s system, tetanus quickly wreaks havoc, causing muscle stiffness and painful contractions. Without intervention, tetanus can be fatal as it may lead to exhaustion, inability to breathe, starvation or dehydration.

Preventing tetanus is simple – animals can be protected by a vaccination administered by SPANA vets. But, without treatment, the mortality rate for donkeys that contract tetanus is incredibly high in environments like this.

A SPANA Mali vet administers an anti-tetanus vaccine to a rubbish dump donkey with skin wounds

The team cleaned and disinfected Demba’s wounds, before administering antibiotics to protect against possible infection. Most importantly, they provided Demba with a tetanus anti-toxin injection, ensuring that the wound wouldn’t lead to an even more serious issue, and also vaccinated Demba against tetanus to help him build longer term immunity against the disease. Ali was also given a new, comfortable harness for Demba to prevent harness wounds from developing.

Demba received help just in time, but many working animals just like him suffer needlessly with the effects of tetanus every year. SPANA is working hard to prevent tetanus cases before they start. Our teams are also raising vital awareness among owners, explaining the importance of good husbandry and animal care to avoid wounds, injuries and infections from occurring. Thanks to kind people like you, we are able to reach working animals like Demba, easing their suffering and saving lives. Thank you for your ongoing support.

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