Various antigens on the surface of red blood cells determine the blood group, or type, for a particular horse, human, or other animal. The presence or absence of specific antigens (carbohydrates, protein, and other substances) is inherited from the parents. Horses with different parents are likely to have significantly different blood types, and even full siblings might not have the same blood type. Horses have eight major blood groups (A, C, D, K, P, Q, U, and T), but more than 30 variations within these groups (Aa, Ca, and Qa, etc.). Most of the time, blood groups are not an issue, but one exception – neonatal isoerythrolysis (NI) – is important. This condition can be fatal to newborn foals. When mares of a few specific blood types (often Aa- and Qa-) give birth to foals with another blood type, antibodies in the mare’s colostrum can cause clumping and death of…
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