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PHOTOS: Blood transfusion in cattle

Blood transfusions are a common procedure in cattle practice, as recently highlighted on Instagram by Gerard McGovern.

The Cavan-based veterinary practitioner explained that 5-8 litres of freshly collected blood, infused into a severely anaemic, shocked cow “can often tip the balance in favour of survival of the animal”.

He pinpointed a number of common conditions where a blood transfusion may be required in cattle:

  • Postpartum rupture of the uterine artery;
  • Laceration of superficial blood vessels – especially mammary vein;
  • Bleeding post-dehorning, castration;
  • Abomasal haemorrhage;
  • Acute haemolytic conditions e.g. Babesiosis.

The solution?

“Sodium citrate is the anticoagulant of choice. A 3.8% solution is used. 9 parts blood to 1 part anticoagulant.”

“Although cattle have 11 blood group systems, antibody cross reactions are rare, so transfusions can safely be carried out.”

“5-8 litres of blood can be collected safely from an adult cow for administration to an anemic patient.”

Ideally, the vet added, donor cows should be docile, but often such a cow is not available, adding that sedation, a headlock gate, and a halter may be required for restraint of fractious donors.

“Blood can be collected from the jugular vein (video) or from the mammary vein (photo 3). The vein should be clipped, surgically prepared & a scalpel used to cut down to the vein.”

“Large bore bleeding needles will collect 5-litres of blood in 5-7 minutes. A rope, pulled tightly around the neck, acts as a good tourniquet.

The UCD graduate said that garden pumps are useful for the administration of the blood (photo 1) or gravity flow (photo 2) using a flutter valve is effective, if a tad slower.

He explained that 5-litres of blood can be administered to the patient over 15-20 minutes.

Main image: Gerard McGovern / Instagram

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