Don’t try this at home! Fizzy cola treatment saves donkey with potentially fatal colic

  • If ever there were a case of “don’t try this at home”, this could be it – a donkey with a potentially fatal condition saved by 24 litres of fizzy cola.

    Vets at The Donkey Sanctuary in Sidmouth treated 15-year-old Joey’s large gastric impaction by administering the cola, in “carefully controlled conditions”, via a tube that went up his nose and directly into his stomach. The Donkey Sanctuary has warned that cola should never be given to healthy equids, or by anyone other than a vet.

    A spokesman for the charity explained that Joey stopped eating after his elderly mother Josie died last November.

    “Soon after that, Joey developed a large gastric impaction, meaning he had a solid blockage of food in his stomach that he was unable to pass through into his small intestine,” he said.

    “His situation was looking serious, so vets at the animal welfare charity rushed into action, giving Joey an abdominal ultrasound and conducting a process called gastroscopy, which meant putting a camera up his nose and into his stomach. They then devised a plan to treat the blockage in Joey’s stomach.”

    Donkey Sanctuary vet Jamie Forrest said intensive treatment was needed to resolve the impaction.

    “As well as pain relief, we flushed Joey’s stomach with cola several times a day to dissolve the solid,” he said.

    “We used six litres of full-sugar cola a day, spread out over three treatments, for four days, to soften and dissolve the impactions in his stomach so the ingesta could once again travel to his intestine. In essence, the cola acted like a drain cleaner. It eats away at the firm matter and eventually softens it to a point where it can pass.”

    Joey was put on a restricted diet to stop the impaction from getting larger, and the sugar in the cola also helped reduce the risk of Joey developing hyperlipaemia, a potentially fatal disease if not treated promptly.

    “In Joey’s case, we were concerned about the risk.” Jamie said. “It was quite likely that he would have developed hyperlipaemia had we not intervened.”

    After four days of cola treatment, described as a “fizzy pop op” by the charity, Joey showed signs of recovery, and another gastroscopy showed the blockage had cleared.

    “During his treatment, Joey struck up a friendship with another bereaved donkey called Ben, who had recently lost his closely bonded companion,” the spokesman said. “They had been introduced as grooms hoped that their shared experience of loss would help them to comfort one another.

    “Although it is still early days, their friendship is still flourishing, and grooms believe their future together looks promising.”

    Jamie added: “We are really pleased with Joey’s recovery. It was touch and go for a while whether we continued treatment, as the impaction was quite severe.

    “Thankfully, he pulled through. We thought he had the strength to survive so we persevered with the treatment, and we couldn’t be happier with the result.”

    British Equine Veterinary Association junior vice-president Imogen Burrows told H&H using cola to break up a gastric impaction is a well-known treatment.

    “It’s important this treatment is only carried out by a vet, as it could cause serious harm if used in the wrong situation,” she said. “The diagnosis needs to be made by a vet, using the correct tools, such as a gastroscope, and treatment must take place in a controlled way under supervision.

    “It’s important to check when the treatment has worked, by repeating the gastroscopy, as you do not want to be passing cola into a stomach where there is not an impaction any more! It seems that the corrosive and effervescent nature of cola is important, in creating a combined effect. I have used diet lemonade in the absence of cola, and I think the cola worked better due to the acids it contains.

    “It’s essential that other supportive treatments are used alongside the cola – it shouldn’t be used alone without a vet being involved. It’s important to be mindful of blood sugars spikes and close patient monitoring is required.”

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