Critically ill foals are seven percent more likely to survive if they receive plasma with higher concentrations of antibodies as opposed to traditional plasma, according to results of a recent study at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine’s Large Animal Hospital.

“The most critically ill foals, those with septicemia, were most likely to benefit,” notes Dr. Simon Peek, a large animal veterinarian at the school who conducted the study, which was published in the May/June issue of the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine.

Both versions of the plasma are produced by the same manufacturer.

The study also evaluated more than 40 other measurable variables in sick foals. Based on the results, those measures can now be used to more accurately predict which sick newborn foals are more likely to survive.

“Some foals survive even if the odds are against them,” cautions Peek. “But we can inform owners whether the foal has a lot going against it from the start.”

And, considering that the median treatment price of a sick foal ranges between $3,000-$4,000 for, at best, a 72% survival rate, this information can help horse owners decide how much to invest when faced with a sick newborn foal. The sickest foals (those with generalized bacterial infection, or sepsis, in their bloodstream) had only a 56% chance of survival.

Factors that predict poor survival rates include low immunogobulin (IgG) levels, high fibrinogen counts (which indicate inflammation), high red blood cell count, and low white blood cell count.

The project was funded by a grant from the School of Veterinary Medicine’s Companion Animal Fund.