Coggins tests are a critical part of your horse's annual preventive care. Here, our Southern Wisconsin vets explain some facts about Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA), why Coggins testing is so important for all horses and how this test is performed.
Coggins Testing for Equine Animals
'Coggins' is the common name for a blood test used to screen horses, donkeys and mules for the potentially fatal disease Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA).
Equine Infectious Anemia - EIA
EIA is an infectious, potentially deadly virus that affects the immune system of animals in the Equidae family.
It's possible for animals to carry this virus without showing any symptoms (also called asymptomatic), however, many horses do differ from severe symptoms of this disease including weakness, an irregular heartbeat, a high fever, anemia, swollen abdomen, unsuccessful pregnancies in mares 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 their equine animals for the condition.
How EIA is Spread
This dangerous disease is transferred from one horse to another through the bites of horse flies, mosquitos, stable flies and deer flies that have previously fed on an infected animal. This means that your horse doesn't actually have to have come into contact with another infected horse in order to contact this disease.
Since flies are attracted to barns and other places that horses frequent, EIA can be quickly and easily transmitted from one horse to another.
What Happens When 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 are able to transmit the disease - via fly bites - to other horses nearby (anywhere within the travel range of the flies). For this reason, horses that test positive for Equine Infectious Anemia must either be euthanized, branded and strictly quarantined more 200 yards away from other horses for life, or transferred to a research facility.
Why All Horses Need a Coggins Test
The severe nature of EIA alongside how easily it is transferred between animals can make regular Coggins testing the best defense for protecting not only the health of individual horses, but of all horses across the country.
Since many horses carrying the virus do not exhibit 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.
The Coggins Testing Process
First, your vet will complete an EIA form, including details like your horse's markings, coloration, breed and age. Digital images will then be taken of your horse.
Next, a blood sample will be taken from your horse which will be submitted to an accredited lab of 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.
Wisconsin State's Coggins Testing Regulations
All equines entering the state of Wisconsin are required to have a certificate of veterinary inspection CVI and a negative Coggins test within 12 months.
If you are moving your equine to Wisconsin state permanently you are required to have a valid 30 day CVI with a negative Coggins test listed on it.
It is essential that a negative Coggins test, within 12 months, is listed on the CVI. If the Coggins test listed on your equine's CVI expires before the CVI expires, the CVI becomes invalid when the Coggins expires.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding animals, or professional advice regarding equine regulations. For an accurate diagnosis of your animal's condition, and help navigating regulations governing the care and transportation of equine animals please make an appointment with your vet.