Blood transfusion is a potentially life-saving procedure for horses suffering from hemorrhagic shock resulting from trauma, laceration, or hemolytic crisis. In these circumstances, there is no substitute for whole blood, which replaces the lost red blood cells and provides protein, clotting factors, and platelets.
The Equine Medical Center maintains a small herd of equine blood donors who have collectively donated more than 1,000 liters of blood in critical care situations.
Safe for Donor & Patient
- The procedure is simple and straightforward, requiring only the placement of a jugular catheter. Horses have a large, contractile spleen, which allows for fairly large volumes of blood to be removed from healthy donors with no negative consequences.
- Prior to every transfusion, donors are cross-matched with patients to ensure that their blood does not react adversely with the patients' blood.
Conditions Requiring Blood Transfusion
- Patients with hemorrhage into the abdomen from a foaling-related tear or a fall or kick commonly require transfusions. These bleeds often cannot be repaired by surgery, so supportive care and transfusions are the most common treatment.
- Patients with red maple leaf toxicity, lacerations with substantial blood loss, anemia, or clotting disorders may also require transfusions.