We asked horse training expert Rhett Russell.
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I’d like your opinion on equine infectious anemia and the Coggins test. I recently purchased a 5 1/2 year old Quarab. It had been 15 years since I had owned a horse and did not realize the changes made regarding the required paperwork for transporting a horse state to state. Therefore I did not insist on a negative coggins test before purchase. Now, six months later, I am interested in going out of state to trail ride. I’ve been told that a negative coggins test and vet exam, are needed.
After doing some research on the internet, I am in a quandary. I was amazed to discover that if my perfectly healthy horse should test positive for the antibodies, I will be forced to either place him into lifetime quarantine or have him euthanized!
I find this unacceptable. After 30 years of test and destroy, this is the best the USDA can do? What about a vaccine?
Sincerely, Tammie Beckner
I understand your concerns for your horse. They can be a part of the family. I am very familiar with the process of testing for Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA). Last month, I brought nine colts through US/Canadian customs. All of them required negative Coggins in order to be brought into the USA.
A Coggins test detects the presence of EIA. Currently, there is no vaccine or treatment for this disease – horses remain infected for life. EIA is caused by a viral infection that affects the immune system of horses. Detection of EIA is through a test developed by Dr. Leroy Coggins in 1970.
EIA is most commonly transmitted via blood during interrupted feedings of large biting flies, especially horseflies and deer flies. Because infected horses pose a threat to other equine species, most states require that horses testing positive for infection by this virus be euthanized or quarantined for life. Fortunately, very few horses are infected with EIA and each year the numbers get smaller.
I understand that there are those who say there is some risk with the test. But, the only thing that is done to the horse is the drawing of blood. The Coggins test itself occurs in the laboratory.
You have some tough choices to make. Either stay in State and ride without getting tested or get the veterinarian to draw blood and have it tested.
Personally, I would get the test. The risks are EXTREMELY small to the horse and you can get on with enjoying your horse.