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Orangeville Animal Health Service LLC

Featured Case

Glow Worm



Glow Worm was about a one-month old Holstein heifer calf when she started acting sick. She wouldn´t drink her milk and had to be tube-fed for several days. After being treated for pneumonia and diarrhea without much success, she was hauled to the nearest university referral hospital for a second opinion. There she was diagnosed with chronic pneumonia after having a respiratory culture performed. Her bloodwork showed a normal packed cell volume (PCV) which is the percentage of red blood cells in circulating blood. However she had a low total solids. Total solids are a measurement of plasma proteins. When these are low, the animal usually has an ongoing protein loss in the body. The doctors determined that Glow Worm was likely suffering from severe gastrointestinal inflammation and protein losing enteropathy. This means she was losing protein through her gut due to the severe inflammation. She needed an IV treatment to restore the protein balance to her system. After discussing treatment options with the doctors at the university, the owners decided to bring Glow Worm home as it was going to be a very costly treatment with a poor prognosis for recovery.





Once back home, the owners contacted us and we worked with the University on trying to do a less costly on-farm treatment for Glow Worm. A transfusion with whole blood was one option for correcting Glow Worm´s total solids deficit. We chose a healthy mid-lactation cow from the herd to use as a blood donor. Cows have a large milk vein running along their abdomen that blood can be easily collected from. One liter of whole blood was collected from the cow in a sterile fashion over about a 15 minute period. The average adult Holstein cow has about 40 liters of total blood volume, so one missing liter did not phase this cow. We placed an IV catheter into Glow Worm´s neck and ran the liter of blood in over 60 minutes. It´s very important to monitor the calf at the very beginning of a blood transfusion in the event of an allergic reaction. Glow Worm´s temperature was monitored for a sudden spike. After running a slow drip with no signs of a reaction in the first 15 minutes we sped up the fluid rate. Once the blood transfusion was finished, we followed it up with 5 liters of a balanced electrolyte solution over the next 24 hours. Although Glow Worm still wasn´t eating, it was important to discontinue the tube-feeding since repeated tube-feeding can cause a severe inflammation of the rumen (one of the stomach compartments). It took several days for Glow Worm to decide to eat on her own again and her total solids increased into the normal range.





Here you can see a picture of Glow Worm a little over 2 years after her blood transfusion. She´s just had her own calf and you would never know she had a rough start at life!


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