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Paco's Story


Meet Paco, a male Sicilian donkey who was admitted to the University of Georgia Veterinary Teaching Hospital to evaluate lameness in his left front leg.

At the time of admission he was 5 months-old and weighed a whopping 115 lbs. Paco had injured his leg four weeks earlier when he managed to get tangled up in wire fencing. For a time after the injury Paco was unable to put weight on the injured leg, but according to his owner, the lameness had gradually improved.

When Paco arrived at the Vet School he was bright and alert, and in good overall physical condition, except that something was obviously still wrong with his leg. X-rays showed that Paco had actually broken his leg, and because the break had never been set properly, the leg had healed crookedly.

This picture above shows Paco after his leg was fixed, but the medical procedure that returned his leg to normal was quite complex. Here's Paco's Story.


This photograph shows Paco's leg when he arrived at the hospital. Notice how the left leg is bowed outward. This is because the bones healed crooked after the break. Running was not easy for Paco at this point!

This is the X-ray that the radiologist used to determine exactly what the problem was with Paco's leg.

Prepping for the Operation

The picture below shows our Italian Stallion just before his actual operation. Note the X-rays attached to the wall for the surgeon to be able to refer to.

The Operation

The apparatus that is being attached to Paco's leg is known as an adjustable hinged Ilizarov external ring fixator.

In layman's terms, this fixator consists of a series of three rings which are attached to pins that are screwed directly into the bone in Paco's leg. The rings are attached to each other by wires which are gradually tightened over a period of weeks. Tightening the wires causes the rings to line up and ultimately lines up the leg bones as well.

Once the pins and rings are in place, the bone has to be re-broken to allow for straightening. This is done with an electric bone saw.


After the operation the ring fixator remained attached to Paco's leg for 48 days. During this period screws on the fixator were gradually tightened in order to slowly draw the rings parallel. At the same time Paco's leg bone was being gradually straightened.

Here we see the ring fixator a few days before it was removed. Note how the rings are now parallel. This indicates that Paco's leg bone is almost back to normal.

Back on the Farm

Paco's new life

Things are different for Paco these days. After spending 100 days in the veterinary hospital he was apparently a little bit confused about whether he was a donkey or a human!

Word from the farm is that Paco came home from the hospital thinking that he was qualified to run the place. His larger equine buddies, such as the one standing beside him in the picture, haven't quite accepted that a 200 lb donkey should be in charge but, apparently, Paco is still trying to convince them!

All's well that heal's well

Paco went through a lot but if there is any doubt that the ordeal was worth the price, take a look at that left leg now. It is just as straight as the hitching post in front of him.


Last Updated April 10, 2007

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Phone: 706.542.8411
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Note: Treatment of animals should only be performed by a licensed veterinarian. Veterinarians should consult the current literature and current pharmacological formularies before initiating any treatment protocol.

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