Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care – Most Recent



Blood products, crystalloids, and colloid fluids are used in the medical treatment of severe hemorrhage in horses with a goal of providing sufficient blood flow and oxygen delivery to vital organs. The fluid treatments for hemorrhage will vary depending upon severity and duration and whether hemorrhage is controlled or uncontrolled.


With acute and severe controlled hemorrhage, treatment is focused on rapidly increasing perfusion pressure and blood flow to vital organs. This can most easily be accomplished in field cases by the administration of hypertonic saline. If isotonic crystalloids are used for resuscitation, the volume administered should be at least as great as the estimated blood loss. Following crystalloid resuscitation, clinical signs, HCT, and laboratory evidence of tissue hypoxia may help determine the need for a whole blood transfusion. In uncontrolled hemorrhage, crystalloid resuscitation is often more conservative and is referred to as “permissive hypotension.” The goal of “permissive hypotension” would be to provide enough perfusion pressure to vital organs such that function is maintained while keeping blood pressure below the normal range in the hope that clot formation will not be disrupted. Whole blood and fresh frozen plasma in addition to aminocaproic acid are indicated in most horses with severe uncontrolled hemorrhage.


Blood transfusion is a life-saving treatment for severe hemorrhage in horses. No precise HCT serves as a transfusion trigger; however, an HCT < 15%, lack of appropriate clinical response, or significant improvement in plasma lactate following crystalloid resuscitation and loss of 25% or more of blood volume is suggestive of the need for whole blood transfusion. Mathematical formulas may be used to estimate the amount of blood required for transfusion following severe but controlled hemorrhage, but these are not very accurate and, in practice, transfusion volume should be approximately 40% of estimated blood loss.

Key Points

Modest hemorrhage, <15% of blood volume (<12 mL/kg), can be fully compensated by physiological mechanisms and generally does not require fluid or blood product therapy.
More severe hemorrhage, >25% of blood volume (> 20 mL/kg), often requires crystalloid or blood product replacement, while acute loss of greater than 30% (>24 mL/kg) of blood volume may result in hemorrhagic shock requiring resuscitation treatments
Uncontrolled hemorrhage is a common occurrence in equine practice, and is most commonly associated with abdominal bleeding (eg, uterine artery rupture in mares).
If the hemorrhage can be controlled such as by ligation of a bleeding vessel, then initial efforts to resuscitate the horse should focus on increasing perfusion pressure and blood flow to organs as quickly as possible with crystalloids or colloids while assessing need for whole blood transfusion.

While fluid therapy is being administered every effort to physically control hemorrhage should be made using ligatures, application of compression, surgical methods, and local hemostatic agents like collagen-, gelatin-, and cellulose-based products, fibrin, yunnan baiyao (YB), and synthetic glues
Although some synthetic colloids have been shown to be associated with acute kidney injury in people receiving resuscitation therapy,20 this undesirable effect in horses has not been reported

Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care, Volume 32, Issue S1, Page 97-107, January 2022.Wiley: Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care: Table of Contents

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