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Hematologic parameters change during the first 10 days of life. Erythrocytes increase in number but decrease in size and hemoglobin concentration. The PCV, hemoglobin, and platelet count also decrease. Total blood and plasma volume and, to lesser extent, erythrocyte volume decrease. Normal neonatal foals may have immature neutrophils (up to 5 per cent bands), and their early rapid rise in neutrophil numbers may be accompanied by a lymphopenia. Monocytes, eosinophils, and basophils are all absent or low initially. Infectious processes can cause rapid and variable changes in the leukogram. However, elevation of fibrinogen levels may lag behind the development of an inflammatory process, and this parameter should not be relied on for early evidence of infection. After 12 hours of life, there is generally a decrease in serum concentrations of Na, Cl, iron, creatinine, BUN, plasma protein, and possibly calcium. LDH, SAP, P, bilirubin, and glucose concentrations are all higher in foals than in mature horses. Creatinine may actually be elevated during the first 12 hours of life and then decreases. If azotemia, hypochloremia, hyponatremia, and hyperkalemia are found, ruptured bladder with uroperitoneum should be suspected. The creatinine concentration is preferable to BUN determination for diagnosis of this condition. Blood typing is useful for diagnosis of NI, determination of blood compatability between donor and transfusion recipient, and for verification of parentage for breed registries. Several techniques are available. Several tests are available for evaluation of the foal's immunoglobulin levels and confirmation of passive antibody transfer. Because foals suffering from FPT are more predisposed to infections, their immunoglobulin status should be determined as early as possible so that additional colostrum or plasma can be administered as needed. Neonatal isoerythrolysis is uncommon but is an important immunologic syndrome that often results in a fatal hemolytic crisis. If one suspects the condition may be likely, the optimal time for testing the mare is during the last 2 weeks of gestation. If the foal's dam is shown to have alloantibodies against a panel of known erythrocyte alloantigens, prevention is possible by feeding colostrum from another mare. If a foal develops NI, further colostrum ingestion from the dam must be prevented. Good nursing care, minimizing stress, and adequate frequent feedings are essential; prophylactic antibiotics should be used, and transfusion may be necessary.


J L Becht, S D Semrad. Hematology, blood typing, and immunology of the neonatal foal. The Veterinary clinics of North America. Equine practice. 1985 Apr;1(1):91-116

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PMID: 3907769

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