Once the diagnosis of theileriosis is made, the most appropriate treatment depends on a variety of aspects including the clinical signs, the number of affected animals as well as other factors such as feed availability.
- Assessment of the herd - use the vulva colour guide to screen the herd and see how many animals might be affected
- Red Blood Cell Count (PCV) - Blood sample suspect animals. A low PCV is an indication of severe blood loss
- Management - Immediately reducing pressure on the affected animals. This can be achieved by
- Once a day milking
- Minimised handling
- When bringing into the shed, let them go at their own pace (don’t push them)
- Good quality feed
- Medical intervention – there are several options available to us, these include
- Blood transfusions
- Treatment of concurrent illnesses (e.g. ketosis or black mastitis)
- Supplementation of trace minerals and iron (hemo15 multi-mineral injection)
- Use of Buparvoquone (Butalex)
Blood transfusions in cattle are required in cases of severe blood loss (e.g. tearing the milk vein after jumping a barbed wire fence) or when red blood cells are being broken down – as is the case with Theileriosis.
In order to assess how severe a cows blood loss is, we take a blood sample and look at the packed cell volume (PCV). If this is less than 10% then a blood transfusion is necessary to save her life. If the PCV is 10-12% then a blood transfusion will drastically help to shorten her recovery time and will increase the chance of keeping her in milk.
Blood Donor Cow
A cow can donate a large volume of blood (e.g. 8L from a 600kg cow) without any ill effect. Donor cows are ideally related to the recipient cow, however this is not essential.
It is more important that donors are large healthy cows in good condition who are as far away from calving as possible.
The donor cow is restrained in a head bail and given a small injection of sedation if needed. Blood collection takes around 20-30 minutes. Blood is collected into a specially treated solution which prevents blood from clotting.
The recipient cow is restrained and the blood given into the large neck vein (jugular). Blood transfusion takes around 20 minutes. There is a slight risk of transfusion reactions so we have Adrenalin and Antimine on hand in the unlikely event of a reaction.
We have seen great responses from bloods transfusions and they have become the mainstay of treatment (with our own vet Sarah Briggs speaking at a national event to teach other veterinary clinicians how to do them). We believe this treatment offers the best prognosis for an animal to remain productive and will decrease their recovery time.
Cost of blood transfusion
In total it costs $180 plus GST. We have streamlined the whole process so that costs are reduced and the benefits can be captured by all farms facing Theileria issues.
This is a specially imported drug which has not been licenced for use in this country and can only be administered by a vet. We were the first vets in New Zealand to import it for treatment of our clients stock; this product has subsequently become available to all vets in the country. A study carried out by meat and livestock Australia showed that Buparvoquone (Butalex) is highly effective at treating Theileria Ikeda infections in calves. Unfortunately because this product is not licensed it has long withhold periods, 43 days milk and 18 months for meat. This limits its use in most cases; however it is still an important weapon in our arsenal.