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The Reason for the Coggins Test

Filed under: Health & Training |     


This time of the year sees a lot of traveling horses, either for pleasure or for business/competition. Most horse owners know that a negative Coggins test is a document required to be able to transport their animals across state lines and enter them in a competitive event (or even board at someone’s barn); if, however, you’re thinking that your horse does not need an annual Coggins test because it doesn’t travel, you might want to reconsider.

A “Coggins” is a blood test that can only be performed by USDA-approved laboratories and checks for Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA) antibodies in the horse’s blood. EIA is a potentially fatal blood-borne infectious viral disease that produces a persistent infection—which means that infected horses become a lifelong source of disease transmission, as there is no vaccine and no treatment.

EIA is transmitted by biting flies, particularly horseflies, so your horse is at risk even it never travels or lives in a closed herd. If a horse becomes infected, the clinical signs of disease can vary dramatically, from an acute infection to an inapparent form that presents mild to no symptoms. And once a horse tests positive for EIA, the owner can only choose between quarantine and isolation for the rest of the horse’s life or humane euthanasia, to ensure that large outbreaks of the disease don’t take place.

So while a Coggins test is a necessary travel document, don’t forget that it’s also first and foremost a way to identify and remove EIA carriers to keep the disease under control.

To learn more about EIA, see the article on the American Association of Equine Practitioners website:

Equine Infectious Anemia | AAEP

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