Crias need to obtain sufficient colostrum during the first 24 hours of life in order to acquire the antibodies that will protect them from the bugs found in their environment that they will be exposed to in the first weeks of life. If a cria is not nursing, it is vitally important that you take steps to ensure colostrum ingestion during these vital first 24 hours. You can check whether or not a cria has acquired sufficient colostrum by checking their IgG concentration.
If crias have not acquired sufficient colostrum, their IgG concentration will be low and this will increase the chance that they will become sick from Failure of Passive Transfer (FPT) since they will not have the antibodies needed to protect them against infections. After 24 hours of life, the amount of antibodies that can be absorbed from the intestinal tract is minimal, therefore an alternative means of providing the antibodies is needed. A plasma transfusion is required to address this problem. Until a commercial plasma bank for camelids is available in the UK, the best source of plasma is from an appropriate animal in your own herd as this will provide locally-relevant antibodies to your cria. Also, you will reduce the chance of accidentally transferring disease from a donor in another herd to a cria in your own: some diseases are difficult to test for. Such diseases include TB, Johnes Disease and BVD.
Collection of blood can be a challenging technique. Camelid Veterinary Services Ltd can assist you by harvesting plasma from the animals on your farm, either here at our clinic or on your farm if you are not too far away. This can then be stored in the freezer so that it is ready for use in the event that you have a cria with FPT. It is ideal to get this organised ahead of the birthing season. Alternatively, your vet can collect the blood and take or send it to either the Pet Blood Bank at Loughborough for processing, or to us if closer. Please contact CVS for further details or to book a visit.
Frequently Asked Questions
A donor animal is selected: an ideal donor is a male over 3 years old. Castrated males make perfect donors. Donors should be vaccinated with a multivalent clostridial vaccine (preferably 10-way) about 3 weeks prior to collection in order to boost antibody levels. Blood will be collected via a needle placed directly into the jugular (neck) vein into blood bags and then taken away for processing to divide the plasma from the red cells. You will receive the plasma back in smaller bags that can be stored safely in the freezer for up to a year.
(Please note that it is vital that blood is harvested and processed in a sterile manner in order to prevent contamination. Other methods that do not use appropriate collection bags, or provide plasma in 60ml syringes are completely unacceptable as the product will not be sterile and could result in potentially fatal infections in the recipient.)
No, but since the donor will have to stand still for around 4 minutes during blood collection, it is important that the donor is used to being handled and that the handlers used are competent. Some animals are not suitable for being blood donors. Displacement of the collection needle during the process can lead to an incomplete collection and partial bags must be discarded as the ratio of anti-coagulant would be unsafe and result in too much being administered to a cria.
We use local anaesthetic when performing our blood collections which means that the donor will not feel any pain during the process.
After blood has been collected, it needs to cool down slowly to room temperature and is then separated the following day. This reduces the chance of red blood cells popping and causing the plasma to be tinted with haemoglobin. You can collect your unfrozen plasma the day after collection, or have it frozen and then dispatched by courier. It is best that the plasma remains frozen so we recommend a same day courier service to ensure the plasma remains of the best quality. If frozen plasma thaws and is refrozen, it can lose some of its effectiveness in terms of IgG content.
The most effective means for administration of plasma to crias is by intravenous (IV) infusion via a blood products administration set. Crias that require plasma will also often require other diagnostic tests and treatment as they may well be becoming sick, or be sick already, at the time of plasma administration. It is important to assess crias properly if plasma is required.
Note about alternative administration methods that have been used by others but should be avoided:
- Administration of plasma by intraperitoneal (IP) infusion is about 1/3 less effective and leads to many more potential complications, particularly if either the site of injection or the plasma is not 100% sterile. Additionally, if the cria is already starting to develop sepsis, an adverse reaction to IP plasma is more likely.
- I have also heard of owners recommending plasma to be given by mouth to crias. It is important to bear in mind that colostrum is massively more concentrated in antibodies (among other important components) than plasma: since antibodies from either will only be absorbed in the first 24 hours, when colostrum is available in the mother’s milk, there seems to be little point wasting space in the cria’s stomach with an inferior product that is far more costly to produce when colostrum is on tap nearby… The cria only has 24 hours to take on board that colostrum so it is pointless to make life harder for it. If you are going to go to all the effort of collecting blood and making plasma, use that valuable product wisely and give it directly into the bloodstream where it needs to get to and where it will have the optimum effect.