Coggins tests are a critical component of your horse's annually scheduled preventive care. Here, our Union City vets share some facts about Coggins testing, Equine Infectious Anemia, and why and how this test is performed to help detect this serious condition.
What is a Coggins test?
'Coggins' is a common name for a blood test that is used to screen horses, mules, and donkeys for a possibly fatal disease - Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA).
What is Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA)?
EIA is an infectious, and potentially even deadly, virus that affects the immune system of animals in the Equidae family.
While some horses can carry the virus without showing symptoms, others will experience very serious symptoms such as irregular heartbeats, swollen legs and abdomen, general weakness, anemia, a high fever, and even death.
A herd outbreak of EIA can lead to catastrophic consequences which are why horse owners need to be diligent about testing for the disease.
How can my horse catch EIA?
EIA is spread from horse to horse by mosquito bites, horse flies, deer flies, or stable flies that have fed on another infected horse. This means that your horse can contract the disease without even coming into direct contact with an infected animal.
Because flies are attracted to barns and other places that horses frequent, this extremely serious disease can be quickly and easily transmitted from one horse to another.
What happens if a horse tests positive for EIA antibodies?
Once a horse is infected with the virus that causes EIA, they will have the disease for the rest of their lives and will be able to spread it to other horses in the area through fly bites. Horses that test positive for Equine Infectious Anemia must either be euthanized or branded and quarantined for the rest of their lives at least 200 yards away from other horses. If neither of the previous options seems appropriate, they may be sent to a research facility.
Why does my horse need a Coggins test?
Because of the seriousness of EIA and how easily it can be passed from animal to animal, regular Coggins testing is our best defense in ensuring the health of horses across the country.
Because many horses carrying the virus show no signs or symptoms of the disease, testing horses who show no signs or symptoms of EIA is critical for identifying carriers and preventing the disease from spreading further.
When exporting horses across the border, both the United States and Canada require Coggins testing, and many states require testing to transport horses across state lines.
A negative Coggins test is usually required before your horse can compete or participate in events, and testing is highly recommended for all horses that spend time in fields or boarding stables with other horses.
How is a Coggins test performed?
To begin, your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical examination to determine your horse's overall health and well-being, as well as look for any physical signs of EIA. As part of the examination, your veterinarian will fill out an EIA form, noting information like your horse's coloration, age, markings, and breed. The vet will also take several digital images of your horse as part of this procedure.
Your veterinarian will then draw a blood sample from your horse, which will be sent to an accredited lab for analysis, along with the EIA form and digital images.
The lab will either send your horse's test results directly to you or your veterinarian once the testing is completed. Our veterinarians at Reelfoot Animal Hospital can use digital Coggins testing technology. This means that the results of your horse's testing will be available for you to review at your leisure.
What are Tennessee's regulations regarding Coggins testing?
Before being gathered together from multiple owners at boarding, breeding, or training stables or pastures in Tennessee, every horse or member of the equine family over the age of 6 months must have proof of a negative Coggins test dated within the previous 12 months.