New IgG Stall-Side Test Kit

The equine industry has new technology adapted from the livestock industry to do a "stall-side" test of whether foals received an adequate amount of protective antibodies in colostrum (IgG test). This is commonly known as failure of passive transfer. Wendy Vaala, VMD, Dipl. ACVIM, a private practitioner in New Jersey, has used this device for a year, and answered the following questions about the new hand-held PalmChek, manufactured by PalmLab, Inc.

What is it?

"This device measures the IgG concentration in a whole blood sample to determine if a foal has absorbed adequate antibodies from the colostrum," Vaala says. "Ideally, foals should have IgG concentrations above 800 mg/dl within 18-24 hours of birth. The device determines the IgG concentration based on the cloudiness or turbidity of the sample. Using a chart, you can match the percent transmittance value with a specific IgG concentration."

How is it different from other ways to check IgG levels?

"The test is quick to perform (less than five minutes), and uses whole blood collected in a special kind of test tube (EDTA tube) that eliminates the need to spin down a blood sample to obtain the plasma or serum. The PalmChek provides a specific IgG value, which allows you to tailor your treatment accordingly. The test is not affected by hemolysis (red blood cell contamination) in the sample. By early 2002, this test will also be able to measure the IgG concentration in colostrum."

Why do you use it?

"I like obtaining a specific IgG value. Treatment for foals with failure of passive transfer includes plasma and/or colostrum administration. If the IgG is very low, I have a much better idea of how much colostrum or plasma I will need to give to increase the IgG. Sick foals also 'consume' IgG (take it in but don't always receive its benefits), and it becomes necessary to monitor their IgG concentration during treatment to make sure adequate levels of IgG are maintained. I like the fact that whole blood collected in EDTA tubes can be used, since it saves time not having to spin down samples to collect serum or plasma. I usually collect an EDTA sample from most foals to check their complete blood count. So I can use the same sample to evaluate the foal's red cell count, white cell count, and IgG. Once it becomes possible to measure colostral IgG, I will use the PalmChek to test the first sample of colostrum to be certain the mare has produced good-quality colostrum."

What does it cost and where can it be bought?

"The PalmChek costs approximately $500. The monitor is quite indestructible and very portable. The individual IgG tests cost approximately $8.40 per test (bought in boxes of 24). The monitor can be purchased directly from PalmLab, Inc., with a few veterinary distributors marketing the device. The company also markets a PalmLab monitor that sells for $2,400 plus shipping and can do chemistry panels as well as IgG."--Kimberly S. Graetz

(For more information on the PalmChek, call PalmLab toll-free at 877/725-6522.)

About the Author

Kimberly S. Brown

Kimberly S. Brown was the Publisher/Editor of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care from June 2008 to March 2010, and she served in various positions at Blood-Horse Publications since 1980.

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