Equine Rescue

Michigan Couple getting Prosthetic Hind Leg for Pet Donkey

Dr. Terry Kern of Pawsitive Steps Rehabilitation & Therapy in Rochester hills fits Miss Daisy Donkey’s right hind leg for prosthesis. Photo submitted by Pawsitive Steps Rehabilitation & Therapy.

Miss Daisy is a mellow, easy going miniature donkey who lives in Independence Township.

She has long, brown hair, loves people, is about 30 inches tall and weighs less than 200 pounds.

She is also missing a hoof.

With the help of local veterinarians and her owners, Miss Daisy will soon be able to run without a hobble, thanks to a relatively new process of fitting of an animal prosthesis on her hind leg.

She will be the first donkey in Michigan to have this procedure done, according to experts.

Daisy’s owner, Independence Township resident Joette Kunse, said she and her husband, Bill, have had horses for 30 years.

“Last year we had two horses, and one passed away at 32 years of age,” said Kunse, a retired educator.

“A horse is a herd animal and likes to have company. We had looked at purchasing another horse, a goat and then we saw a miniature donkey and thought — cheap friend for our horse Scooter.”

The couple purchased Miss Daisy from equine veterinarian Austen Epp in November, and have made her part of the family since. But somewhere along the line, Miss Daisy suffered a cut near her right hind hoof.

An infection from the cut proved to be nearly fatal, said Kunse.

“Dr. Epp was taking care of her … (and) told us she may not live through this and she had a less than 50-50 chance,” Kunse said.

“During this time, Miss Daisy Donkey continued to eat, walk around and seemed to not know she was sick.

“One morning, we went out to the barn and found the bandage off Miss Daisy’s foot and the hoof was inside, but (she) was standing, eating and seemed oblivious to her predicament.”

Dr. Epp, owner of his own equine veterinary practice in Holly and partner in Michigan Equine Surgical Associates in Bridgeport, said: “Her wound scabbed, but it didn’t heal all the way. It basically fell off due to the lack of blood flow to her foot.”

So what are the options when a family member becomes ill?

“What else do you do? You do what you can,” said Kunse.

After a suggestion from their daughter — a veterinarian in Oregon — the couple have been working with Dr. Epp and Dr. Terry Kern, a rehabilitation and therapy veterinarian at Rochester Hills-based Pawsitive Steps Rehabilitation & Therapy for Pets.

Miss Daisy was fitted for a prosthetic on her right hind leg on Friday at Kern’s office.

Kern, who normally does the fittings on dogs and cats, said the process of putting a prosthetic limb on an animal is relatively new — it’s only been happening for around the past eight years.

Pawsitive Steps works with the well-known Colorado firm OrthoPets, which was recently featured on the Today Show for helping fit a debilitated dog in Dallas with prosthetics on his hind legs.

“We’ll make the cast of the limb, ship the cast to OrthoPets, they will make a digital scan of the cast — they have digital printing machinery — and will fit all the buckles and clips,” said Kern.

“If you’ve got an animal who was born without the use of its limbs and you can give that back to them, it’s a deal-changer.

“Donkeys and equine animals have to have four legs — their structure has to be supported in four places — so it could be life or death for them.”

Kern said dogs and cats can do well with three legs, but using only three legs puts stress on an animal’s joints and back.

Only a few donkeys in the country have experienced what Miss Daisy will experience, and only five dogs in Michigan have gotten prothesis through Pawsitive Steps this year, Kern added.

“As a veterinarian, when the options have previously been euthanasia or amputation, this is phenomenal.”

Kunse added that Miss Daisy has even grown in popularity after coming through her ordeal. She now has a Facebook page.

“It’s been kind of a journey. Not a strange one, but it’s interesting what can be done,” said Kunse.

“When you get really bright people who see that there’s a need, they figure it out.”

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Categories: Equine Rescue, Horse Health

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8 replies »

  1. Wish they would’ve shown a picture of ANY one of the other animals successfully fitted with such prosthesis. I wonder how often this is successful? (sure wish it was available 13 years ago!). My dog had recurring bone cancer on her front leg; 4 operations, then the Only option would be amputation! However, at 16 years and some arthritis of hips – vet felt she was far too Old to learn to cope with 3 legs 😦 – therefore, once her Pain and tumor growth became uncontrollable, we Lost our most loyal friend 😦
    I still miss her.


  2. Great evidence of the humane side of humanity. I do know a horse who got a prosthetic on a front limb in the year 2000, though, so am sure there are others and folks with big hearts (and pocketbooks) have been doing this more than eight years for sure.


  3. I just saw a PBS documentary regarding prosthetics for animals and there was a story about a horse, Molly, that was abandoned in Katrina. A woman heard about her being left several weeks in her stall with little food and water. She was recovering nicely and then a pit bull attacked Molly. She eventually lost her hoof. She has been fitted with a prosthetic leg and is now a therapy horse for young children that are disabled and have prosthetics. A happy ending story.


    The documentary also showed a pig, Chris P Bacon, that was born with legs that has frozen joints. He gets around with wheels. His Dad is a vet and decided to take him when surrendered and opted not to euthanize him. He had never dealt with pigs before, but, he now says he would have it no other way.

    I also follow on Facebook, For the Love of Ruby. Jennifer has 5 adopted dogs and still has 2 or 3 foster pets. Ruby is a pit pull with a cleft palate& lip/nose that required surgery. She is “cute as a button” and what a personality! Two of her other adopted dogs have wheels to get around and Chino is blind. She is presently fostering a lab puppy, Miss Pippa with a cleft palette and a kitten, Sully, with a cleft palette and lip who are awaiting surgery. Disabled pets can still have a wonderful life if given a chance and give their owners a world of joy.


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