Coggins tests are a critical component of your horse's annually scheduled preventive care. Here, our Columbia 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 animals are able to carry the virus without showing symptoms, other horses will suffer from very severe symptoms of the disease including irregular heartbeats, swollen legs and abdomen, general weakness, anemia, a high fever and even sudden death.
A herd outbreak of EIA can lead to catastrophic consequences which is why it is essential for horse owners to be diligent about testing for the disease.
How can my horse catch EIA?
EIA is transmitted from one horse to another through mosquito bites, horse flies, deer flies or stable flies that have fed on a different infected animal. This means that your horse does not even need to have come into direct contact with an infected animal in order to contract this disease.
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 at the root of EIA, they have contracted the disease for life and will be able to have their illness transmitted through fly bites to any other horses that might be nearby. Because of this, horses that test positive for Equine Infectious Anemia must be either euthanized or branded and strictly quarantined at least 200 yards away from other horses for the rest of their life. They may also be sent to a research facility if neither of the previous options sound suitable.
Why does my horse need a Coggins test?
Due to the seriousness of EIA and how easily it can be transferred between animals regular Coggins testing for the disease is our best defense in protecting the health of horses across the country.
Since many horses carrying the virus do not sure symptoms of the disease, testing horses with no symptoms of EIA is essential for detecting carriers and preventing further spread of the disease.
Coggins testing is required in both the United States and Canada when exporting horses across the border, and many states require testing in order to take horses across state lines.
A negative Coggins test is typically required before your horse can take part in competitions and events, and testing is highly recommended for all horses that spend time near other horses whether in fields or boarding stables.
How is a Coggins test performed?
Firstly your veterinarian will conduct a thorough physical exam to determine the overall health and well-being of your horse and search for any physical symptoms of EIA. Your vet will then complete an EIA form as they perform this examination, marking down details such as your horse's coloration, age, markings, and breed. As part of this process, the vet will also take a number of digital images of your horse.
Next, your vet will take a blood sample from your horse that will be submitted to an accredited lob for analysis alongside the EIA form and digital images.
Once testing is complete the lab will forward your horse's test results either directly to you, and/or to your veterinarian. At Maury County Veterinary Hospital, our veterinarians are able to use digital Coggins testing technology. This means that the results of your horse's testing will be visible online at your convenience and for your own review.
What are Tennessee's regulations regarding Coggins testing?
In the State of Tennessee, every horse, or member of the equine family, over the age of 6 months are required to have proof of a negative Coggins test dated within the past 12 months before being gathered together from more than one owner at boarding, breeding or training stables or pastures.