Coggins tests are a key element of your horse's annual preventive care. In today's post, our PetVet Care Centers veterinary team share some facts about Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA), why Coggins testing is important for horses, and how Coggins testing is performed.
What is a Coggins test?
'Coggins' is the common name for an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) which is a blood test used to screen horses, donkeys, and mules for the potentially fatal disease Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA).
What is Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA)?
EIA is an infectious, potentially deadly virus that affects the immune system of animals in the Equidae family.
While some animals can carry the virus without showing symptoms (asymptomatic) other horses suffer from severe symptoms of the disease including irregular heartbeat, weakness, swollen abdomen and/or legs, high fever, anemia, abortion in pregnant mares, or even sudden 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 transferred from one horse to another through the bite of mosquitos, deer flies, horse flies, or stable flies that have previously fed on an infected animal. This means that your horse does not have to come in contact with an infected horse to contract the 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 has been infected with the virus that causes EIA they have it for life and can transmit the disease (via fly bites) to other horses nearby. For this reason, horses that test positive for Equine Infectious Anemia must either be euthanized, branded, and strictly quarantined more than 200 yards away from other horses for life, or transferred to a research facility.
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 show symptoms of the disease, testing horses with no symptoms of EIA is essential for detecting carriers and preventing the 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 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?
First, your veterinarian will give your horse a thorough physical examination to determine the overall health of your equine pet and to look for any signs of EIA. Your vet will complete an EIA form as they perform the examination which will include details such as your horse's coloration, marking, age, and breed, and digital images will be taken of your horse.
Next, a blood sample will be taken from your horse which will be submitted to an accredited lab for analysis along with the EIA form and the images.
Once testing is complete the lab will forward your horse's test results either directly to you, and/or to your veterinarian.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding horses. For an accurate diagnosis of your horse's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.