April 5, 2000 | By: Aimee D. Heald

In April, the horse industry begins to really come alive in the Commonwealth. More horses will be moving around the state during, racing, breeding, sale and show season and owners need to pay close attention to health regulations, especially when it comes to keeping a current Coggins test.

A Coggins test screens the horse's blood for the Equine Infectious Anemia virus. Some horse owners know this disease as "Swamp Fever," since it's often transmitted by biting insects such as flies and mosquitos. Anything that has the potential to transfer blood from one horse to another is an avenue for EIA, including needles, syringes or other instruments that are not disinfected after use. The safest method is to use a new needle for each horse when giving vaccines or taking blood.

"EIA is incurable," Bob Coleman, Extension equine specialist for the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, said. "Once the horse has the disease, it is a carrier for life. Because of this, it's important to have horses tested to prevent the spread of the disease."

Sometimes the horse doesn't display any symptoms; he's just a carrier. This is most dangerous since the horse's stable mates, pasture mates, etc. can be unknowingly infected.

Horses with the acute form of the EIA will have a fever and will go off feed from seven to 30 days after the initial exposure. During this stage, the horse may still test negative.

The more classic form of EIA is seen in a chronically infected horse. This horse will suffer bouts of weight loss, anemia and swelling that may last days or even months. These episodes usual follow a period of stress due to heat, work, pregnancy, other diseases, etc. Each state has its own requirements concerning EIA. Kentucky's regulations are as follows.

All horses over six months of age, that are offered for sale or are being moved for the purpose of changing ownership, must test negative for EIA within the previous six months. Horses arriving at an approved sale without a valid negative test will be tested at the seller's expense.

Horse offered for exhibition, including show horses, race horses, trails, boarding stables, public gatherings of horses are required to have a negative Coggins tests for the previous 12 months. The only exception to this rule is unweaned foals traveling with their dams.

"If you're going to be taking your horse to activities, it must be tested," Coleman said. "While the incidence (of EIA) is low in Kentucky, it is still here and because there is no cure; prevention is our only hope."

Coleman suggests that if you are traveling with your horses outside of Kentucky, call ahead and get information about the health requirements in the state to which you are traveling. For information please contact Rusty Ford at the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, Division of Animal Health, (502) 564-3956.


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