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                                                           Blood in Milk - causes & Control

                                                           A.K Balhara , N Rana , SK Phulia and Sunesh 

Blood in milk is a state of physiological hyperemia of the mammary gland that is occasionally seen towards the end of gestation and for a short period just after parturition. This admixture of blood in milk normally persists no longer than 14 days at the most. However, failure to milk out the udder may precipitate this condition at any stage during lactation. In latter cases, the udder invariably becomes turgid and more or less diffusely reddened.

Hemorrhage may occur in the udder as small focal areas of hemorrhage by diapedesis. This occurs quite frequently in newly freshened cows/buffaloes without evidence of disease and is characterized by presence of erythrocytes in the alveoli. Sometimes, the erythrocytes in the milk are sufficient enough to impart a pinkish tinge to the milk resulting in red cream and sediment. However, more frequently there is a mere trace of blood that can be demonstrated only upon centrifugation of milk. Extensive bleeding may occur as a result of rupture of blood vessels. The presence of blood, however, imparts an insipid quality to milk. Any other hemorrhage by diapedesis is considered pathological and occurs due to damage to the epithelial lining of the teat cistern.

Extensive bleeding in the udder tissue may be due to penetrating lacerations, tread wounds, whip injuries, horn pokes and straining of the tissues. As a result there are localized or widespread areas of blood diffusion into the connective tissue of the skin of the udder or in the wall of the cistern. In every instance of macroscopic abnormality evident on withdrawal of milk from the udder, systemic and udder diseases as well as the effect of feed should be considered.

Specific Causes

1.    Harsh milking by hand or machine

2.    Vitamin C deficiency

3.    Discoloration observed during milking is often due to feeding practices. Feedstuffs belonging to family Rubiaceae (dyer’s madder, Rubia tinctorum), various types of leafy plants owing to admixture of the red dye; spurge (Euphorbia) sedge, shave grass. Certain plant toxins (ranunculi, conifers, poplars, alders, etc.) may cause capillary damage.

4.    Infusion of severely irritating medicaments like phenothiazine (rose red)

5.    Acute or chronic mastitis

In chronic mastitis, when vascular granulation tissue has been formed, temporary or protracted hemorrhage into the milk may result from harsh milking or from lying with the udder on an uneven surface

6.    Systemic infections that cause intravascular hemolysis or capillary damage like some viruses, bacterial infections like leptospirosis, other microorganisms like Brevibacterium erythrogenes, Serratia marcescens, Micrococcus cerasinus (possibly identical to M. cinnabareus flugge), M. chromidrogenes rubber, M. roseus, Lactorubefaciens gruber, Sarcina rubra, red yeasts

7.    Leucotic processes may lead to blood in the lactiferous ducts and in milk


Slight admixture of blood in milk

A slight admixture of blood in the milk after partus requires no specific treatment as it naturally disappears within two weeks. If it is due to slight trauma it is not a matter of much concern. If the causative factor is/are feedstuffs, the same must be eliminated at once and light feed should be provided to animals with quarter being milked out with as much care as possible avoiding intensive stripping. Supportive treatment in the form of ice packs, cold water sprays may be provided. A homeopathic complex consisting of Phytolacca 200c, Calcarea fluorica 200c, Silicea 30c, Belladona 30c, Bryonia 30c, Arnica 30c, Conium 30c and Ipecacuanha 30c is also helpful in treating milk and udder oedema in lactating buffaloes.

Extensive admixture of blood in milk

This warrants immediate administration of hemostatics and parenteral coagulants along with intravenous administration of calcium preparations like calcium borogluconate.

  • Epinephrine derivatives that hamper the flow of blood by vasoconstriction and by increasing the blood platelets, 5 ml of 1 % solution of epinephrine may be infused intravenously
  • Vitamin C preparations influence the blood clotting mechanism. Raw potatoes, having high vitamin C content, may also be given.
  • Slow intravenous administration of formalin (10 ml of 35 % commercial solution of formaldehyde in 500 ml of boiled water). It may be repeated every second day if needed. Two or three infusions are usually adequate. As there is some danger of shock, epinephrine must be kept ready.
  • Blood in milk associated with chronic mastitis and bleeding granulation tissue first requires the control of the infection by suitable intracisternal medication followed by surgical removal of the granulation tissue. To preclude the development of ichorogangrenous mastitis (ichorous-watery blood tinged discharge), profuse administration of the intracisternal antibiotics must be done.

Bloody milk should be withheld from sale for human consumption. As the bloody milk contains natural antimicrobial inhibitors, it may interfere with antibiotic residue test and may result in false positive reactions. However, since the IgG1 concentration of bloody colostrum is similar to that of normal appearing colostrum, it is not necessary to discard colostrum simply due to the presence of blood.