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Significance of Blood Work In the Horse

Updated: Jan 31, 2023

Any animal with a rather nondescript problem should have its blood checked. Analysis of a blood sample can yield a tremendous amount of information as to the well-being of the animal. Here are a few of the more common problems and what should be done when they are encountered.

Low Hemoglobin: In performance horses, ideally the hemoglobin should be 14-16. If the value is below 14 then iron is deficient in the blood. The most common reason for this deficiency is a heavy worm burden. The horse should be wormed and given injections of iron, bi-weekly. Other common causes of low iron can be related to gastric and colonic ulcers and EIPH.

Low Protein: The normal for a performance horse is 6-7. Horses in a debilitated state or those animals getting poor feed will have protein values below 6. Rectify this situation by feeding the animal high protein ration, and by giving the animal amino-acid jugs intravenously.

High sGOT: sGOT is an enzyme in the blood that is present in large amounts when muscle destruction has taken place. If this value is too high, then administering Vitamin E and Selenium will help to protect the muscle from any further destruction.

High Protein: Protein values of over 7 are always suspect. If a horse is partially dehydrated, then there will be a rise in the blood protein reading because of increased concentration. If a high protein value is encountered, check the skin of your horse to see if dehydration is present. You can do this by simply pinching a small amount of skin on the neck of the horse. The pinch should disappear almost immediately. If it doesn't then dehydration exists. Correct this situation by adding electrolyte supplements to the water of your horse in an effort to increase the animal's water intake or give sodium citrate jugs intravenously.

High Hemoglobin: Horses with hemoglobin values above 17 should be examined carefully. At times, when were told to give supplements to horses, we tend to overdo it. Example: if a little is good, a lot is better. In these cases, the supplements could cause the horse's blood to become too thick. These horses can in fact become very dull. The supplements should be discontinued. If the blood hemoglobin is really high then the age-old technique of bleeding the animal will cure the problem. No more than 10 percent of the blood volume should ever be removed, however. For a 1000 lb. horse, that would be 1 gallon.


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