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Equine Infectious Anemia Beware

Getting a Coggins is still important — to everyone.

Equine infectious anemia (or EIA) is a disease that is rarely diagnosed anymore, but one that we routinely test for. This is what we are looking for when we “draw a Coggins.” The test indicates the presence (positive) or absence (negative) of antibodies against the EIA virus. The disease is spread by biting insects that pass infected blood from a carrier on to uninfected horses. It can also be spread by contaminated surgical instruments or needles. Carriers are those horses who are permanently infected with the virus and can therefore spread the disease to others. Carriers may not show any signs of the disease. Clinical signs of the disease are intermittent fever, lethargy, and weight loss. A horse recently infected will usually show the most dramatic illness.

In 1999, there were a few horses that tested positive in New York state. Cases were reported in Grand Island, just outside of Buffalo. Another horse purchased at auction in Pennsylvania for transport to New York was also found to be carrying the virus. Horses that are transported intra- or interstate are required to carry a negative Coggins test. The time frame for these varies. Be sure to check with our office about interstate and international regulations. Individuals taking horses to performance events, auctions or sales should check with the secretaries of those events for their rules. The state mandates that a new test be run on each horse every second calendar year. When purchasing a horse, the buyer should receive a negative Coggins report from the seller.

It is for the protection of your horse that these tests are done. One should be hesitant about boarding in a stable or going to events or riding areas where current negative Coggins tests are not required. The disease has not yet been eradicated from the U.S., and until it is, routine testing will need to continue. The cost of not testing is far too high. Be a responsible horse owner and have a Coggins drawn every other year.