When Kota, a Gypsy Vanner colt, was born, he seemed incredibly healthy and hit all of the necessary benchmarks for new foals. But four days later, Kota developed a fever. Then, after getting caught in a rainstorm, Kota’s temperature dramatically dropped. When Kota’s owner, Kari Newman, saw that the foal urinated while laying down, she knew that Kota had to see a veterinarian right away.
After arriving at the University of Minnesota Leatherdale Equine Center (LEC), Kota was diagnosed with neonatal isoerythrolysis, a condition that led to Kota’s antibodies attacking his red blood cells. The stress of those extreme temperatures meant that his already-stressed blood supply was working overtime to try and move oxygen around his body and cool him down. The result was that he was very anemic, and without a blood transfusion, Kota would die.
Blood transfusions are more difficult in horses than in humans. It has been conservatively estimated that there are approximately 400,000 blood types in horses, compared to eight in humans. This makes getting an exact match very difficult, and many facilities are not equipped for a procedure this complex. After testing multiple donors, veterinarians were able to find a donor for Kota, a quarter horse mare named Ginger.
While Kota and Ginger’s blood types weren’t an exact match, Kota’s body eventually began accepting the transfusion after a long 48-hour wait, and he began producing his own red blood cells. Thanks to the veterinarians at LEC, Kota was able to go home a week and a half later and was back to behaving like a normal, healthy foal. He recently won reserve champion at a Gypsy Vanner show. “Without the blood transfusion at the U of M, he would have died,” says Newman. “They saved his life.”