Has this happened to you? So
what exactly is a Coggins' Test? We get that question often in
our practice. Most owners know they need it to cross a state
line or that certain shows, stables or trail rides require it.
Several people look at it like "just one more thing I need
to do to ride my own darned horse". C'mon you know you're
out there. It's just a piece of paper, not that important, right?
Well, read on and maybe you'll change your mind.
A Coggins' Test actually tests for a disease called Equine Infectious
Anemia (EIA) or "swamp fever". EIA, a viral disease
that attacks the horse's immune system, is a retrovirus very
similar to HIV in humans (the virus that causes AIDS). And similar
to HIV in humans there is no cure or vaccine for the disease.
The first time it was diagnosed in the United States was way
back in 1888 and we have been trying to get rid of it ever since.
In 1970, a veterinarian named Leroy Coggins (so that's where
that name came from) developed the first reliable test to detect
EIA. There are now different types of tests for EIA: the agar
gel immunodiffusion (AGID) test and the enzyme-linked immunosorbent
assay (ELISA) test. The AGID test detects EIA antibodies in your
horse's blood; it's very reliable with a statistical accuracy
of at least 95%. The ELISA test detects for antibodies against
a certain "antigen" or small part of the EIA virus.
If you are curious about which test your horse had you can look
at the bottom of your Coggins' paperwork and see. At the bottom
you should see a small box next to either AGID or ELISA checked,
and it is usually written in by the state accredited laboratory
technician that ran your horse's blood work.
How does your horse contract EIA? EIA is a typical blood borne
infection. In other words, your horse can get EIA from coming
into blood to blood contact with a horse positive for EIA. Unfortunately,
this exposure can happen in several different ways. The most
obvious way is when humans share needles between horses out of
convenience or to save a few dollars. All used needles should
always be disposed of and never reused, even if the owner believes
that they have "cleaned" it. Blood-feeding and blood-sucking
insects also have an important role in the spread of EIA. When
an insect such as a deer fly, horse fly, biting fly, or mosquito
gets interrupted while eating (like we shoo them away, the horse
kicks or swishes its tail, etc...) it wants to finish its feeding
as quickly as possible. Therefore it will attempt to feed on
the next available horse and any potentially EIA infected blood
that is still on his mouth parts can be transmitted into the
Horses that have been exposed to EIA virus usually incubate the
disease for two to four weeks and then may begin showing clinical
signs. Clinical signs can include fever, weakness, weight loss,
incoordination, anemia (low red blood cell count), mucous membrane
petechiation (little spots on the gums), swelling of the legs,
chest and belly, etc In severe cases the horse can die within
2-3 weeks. If the horse lives through the initial clinical disease,
it can result in a "chronic" case or an "inapparent
carrier" case. Chronic cases are typically poor-doer horses
that have poor body condition, persistent anemias, lethargy,
on and off fevers, etc Inapparent carriers appear normal and
healthy but can carry the disease and transmit it through the
previously mentioned vectors. Therefore, inapparent carriers
are the ones to be worried about because they can move about
freely at shows and other places where horses gather and no one
knows they are the "Typhoid Mary" so to speak. That
is the main reason why it is a state law to have a negative Coggins'
test for most horse shows and trail rides (places where large
populations of horses gather) and to cross state lines (states
want to monitor what is coming into their state).
So now you know why you need the test. You don't want to have
your horse either be a carrier or be around a horse that is a
carrier; so a show, trail ride or stable that requires a negative
Coggins' test is actually protecting your horse as well as all
the others on property. What does the test actually tell you?
It tells you that AT THE TIME of the blood collection, your horse
did not have antibodies against EIA. It's a spot check so to
speak. Your horse could theoretically get exposed and develop
EIA two months after the blood test but your paperwork is still
"good" until a year in most cases. The blood test does
not prevent the disease, the test does not "protect"
your horse it is simply a spot check.
So, let's talk more about when you need the test. We get numerous
phone calls where someone is going out of state and someone mentioned
to them something about "some paperwork I may need"
and oh by the way we're leaving tomorrow that isn't a problem
is it? Well yes it is unfortunately. The blood work usually takes
3-4 business days to return back from the laboratory. The blood
has to be obtained by a licensed veterinarian and state mandated
documentation needs to be filled out stating the owner's information,
the place where the horse is stabled, the veterinarian and the
horse's information and markings so the paperwork can be compared
to the horse and verified it is one and the same in the future.
Then both blood and paperwork needs to be sent to a state accredited
laboratory that tests for EIA. The test is run, the paperwork
is returned, and we then pass it on to you. In this case we are
talking about the AGID test. In more emergency situations where
something comes up and the horse needs to leave sooner than the
three days we can run a STAT test which is the ELISA test we
discussed earlier. This can be back and into your hands within
24 hours in most cases but it is more expensive than the AGID
test. Now here's the kicker, some places, states, etc do not
accept the ELISA test as a valid test to enter the state, but
the majority of them do. You also need a negative Coggins' test
on your horse any time you need to acquire a health certificate
on a horse. If something states that you need a health certificate
for entry or to attend a seminar, even if it is within the state,
your horse cannot be issued a health certificate unless he has
a current negative Coggins' test.
So what is a current Coggins' test? Well, as we alluded to earlier,
since it is only a spot check at the time of blood collection,
different states have decided on what is actually considered
"current" for a Coggins' test. Most states go by the
12 month rule, i.e. as long as your Coggins' test has been processed
within the last 12 months it can be used. Certain states only
allow it to be within 6 months. Then there are states like Michigan
which require it to be within the current "calendar year"
or at least 30 days before. In other words, if you had a Coggins'
test run in November, you would need another by the beginning
of the next year for it to be valid in Michigan. So it is important
for you to tell us if you are planning a specific trip when you
are acquiring a Coggins' test so we can best inform you on when
your blood work should be performed, any other information or
paperwork you may need (some states require permit numbers to
enter the state), any other vaccinations that may be required
(some states require proof of specific vaccinations such as Rabies
What happens if you get caught without one? Well that also changes
from state to state. Speaking with officials in Indiana you could
have your horse impounded and you could be fined up to $10,000
for lack of an interstate health certificate and refusal to perform
a Coggins' test. Makes getting that Coggins' test look better
and better doesn't it? What happens if a horse is positive? Unfortunately,
you only have 3 different options according to state law. 1.
Permanent quarantine of the horse strictly to the owner's premises
at least 200 yards from the nearest horse. 2. Euthanasia. 3.
Slaughter after securing a special permit. Also if a horse is
found positive, all other horses in the herd need to be tested
And the biggest question of all "C'mon doc-just what are
the chances of my horse having EIA?" Well, I will have to
admit it's not a huge percentage. But cases do occur. For
example, in the year 2002 there were 452 positive cases of EIA
in the United States. Of the surrounding states, there was one
case each in IL, OH and KY; there were two cases here in IN and
there were 12 cases in MI. So yes, it is around. A good demonstration
on why EIA testing is important happened in Illinois. The illegal
movement of an infected horse was investigated. The infected
horse changed hands three times before it was tested and discovered
to carry the disease. The horse had been taken to a breeding
farm and to shows where it came in contact with other horses.
This ONE infected animal exposed 298 horses which involved over
64 different owners. Luckily, none of these exposed horses became
infected, but you can see how it could be catastrophic.
Take home message, yes EIA is out there. If we could get every
person in the United States to do a Coggins' test on their horse
on a certain day/week we may just eradicate the disease.
Maybe someday we will. But until that time annually test
your horses, test new horses coming into your herd or barns,
and follow by the rules. The state actually puts them there to
protect you, not just annoy you.
There are new dewormers out on the market. These dewormers are
some of our mainstays (like Quest or the ivermectins) but now
they have Praziquantel (praw-zee-kwan-tell) added. Praziquantel
eliminates tapeworms from your horse. For a long time we were
taught that tapeworms just kind of hang out in the gut and absorb
nutrients but don't do any major damage. However, recent studies
have shown that tapeworm infestation could be a contributing
cause of colic in horses. Since tapeworm infestation is difficult
to detect with the routine fecal flotations we generally perform
it would be a good idea to add one of these dewormers into
your deworming routine.
Did You Know?
Did you know that Indiana's soil is deficient in Selenium? This
means that hay and grains that are grown in Indiana are subsequently
deficient in Selenium. So in a round about way did you
know that your horse's diet may be deficient in Selenium? Selenium
is important for muscle function (especially with horses prone
to tying up and sore muscles) and can be important in skin conditions.
So check out your horse's diet. If he has a processed grain or
feed, he likely is getting Selenium as an additive in the feed.
If you are feeding him plain oats or minimal grain he may not
be getting enough. It's a good idea to get a mineral block designed
for horses and allow them access to it. Be sure that it contains
Selenium as one of the ingredients, not all of them do.
Fall is just around the corner and time for fall innoculations
is here. The vaccinations for Influenza and Rhino-pneumonitis
(Flu/Rhino) are a shorter lived vaccine i.e. the level of protection
does not last as long as some of the other annual vaccines such
as Tetanus. Fall is the time to boost your horse's immune system
to help protect them over the winter. This is especially important
for horses in larger barns with several horses or with horses
that are shown throughout the winter months and are exposed to
several horses at shows. Another vaccine commonly given in the
fall is the Rabies vaccine. It is a good time to give this annual
vaccine, allowing us to split it up from the more numerous vaccines
given in the spring. For more information or to make an appointment
for your fall vaccinations please call 219-313-8628 or email
us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I know, I know you're probably
thinking GOAT?? I do see goats from time to time although it
is not the largest portion of my patient list. However, several
of my horse clients do have goats on farm so this will pertain
to more than a few. I wanted to give you a brief overview of
basic care for goats. Unfortunately, I see several goats on an
emergency basis from problems that could possibly be prevented
with simple husbandry techniques. So here goes.
Vaccinations An annual CDT (Clostridium Types C and D and
Tetanus) vaccine is usually adequate. Clostridium is a bacteria
that can cause a nasty often times fatal diarrhea (Type C) or
a widespread circulating bacterial infection in the body (Type
D) and most everyone knows about Tetanus. It is also sometimes
called the overeating vaccine, although it unfortunately does
not prevent the little stinkers from overeating. Kids should
get a vaccine and have it repeated in a month, then it is annual
Deworming In my experience, oral dewormers just do not
work as well as injectable dewormers. I have had clients faithfully
deworm their goats every 2 months with oral dewormers and they
still can be massively infected with parasites. I recommend deworming
with an injectable ivermectin at least 3- 4 times a year. If
you would like to use it in conjunction with your oral dewormers,
that's fine. If the thought of giving your goats shots that often
doesn't appeal to you, then you can always bring a fecal sample
in and we can check and see how your deworming program is going.
Another major problem with goats, especially young ones is coccidia.
It is a small microscopic parasite that is not killed by regular
dewormers. You need a special one such as Corid or Albon (tradenames).
I would recommend treating all your young ones with it as a preventative.
You can contact us for further information on dosing. Young goats
heavily infected with coccidia can die quickly from severe anemia
(low red blood cells) so it can be a real problem. Also, if it
is possible, it is a good idea to rotate pastures with the goats
as well to help cut down on the reinfestation, especially after
you deworm. The best deworming program in the world doesn't work
if they just keep reinfesting themselves no quicker than you
Feed Goats are ruminants, and they have a large rumen where
their food is broken down. They "ruminate" and chew
their cud just like cows. It is important for them to get lots
of roughage to eat. I see many problems with goats that are fed
high amounts of grain and low amounts of hay or grass. If you
feed grain as the main part of their diet you can predispose
them to PEM (polioencephalomalacia i.e. softening of the brain),
uroliths (stones in their urinary tracts that can obstruct males)
and rumenitis (inflammation of the rumen). Hay is the most important
and they can get trace minerals from mineral blocks if needed
(especially Selenium since Indiana soil is deficient in Selenium)
or small amounts of a goat chow.
I know that was just a quick overview, but I hope it will help
some of your other four legged friends live a more productive
life. If you do own a goat and would like some help getting him
on a better preventative schedule or need further information
call or email us.
West Nile Update
Hey, how would everyone like
to hear some good news about West Nile for a change? According
to the USDA, as of September 9, 2003, Indiana has no reported
cases of West Nile disease in equine. Congratulations on everyone
for getting their horses vaccinated and protected. However, there
have unfortunately been cases throughout the United States. In
total, there have been 1,205 cases of West Nile disease in equine
throughout the United States. Just seven states comprise 78%
of the total number of cases: Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New
Mexico, Texas, South Dakota and Nebraska. Cases seen in our neighboring
states are as follows: Illinois 4, Ohio 3, Kentucky
30, Michigan 0. If you would like to keep up to date
on the United States statistics check out the numbers at the
The five month mark is coming
up for a lot of your pregnant mares out there. Actually, some
of you have already passed it as we have already performed a
few rhinopneumonitis vaccines. Rhinopneumonitis is the name for
Equine Herpesvirus. There are two different types of Herpesvirus
but we are specifically talking about Type 1 that can cause abortions
in pregnant mares. Mares should be vaccinated against Type 1
Rhino during months five, seven and nine of their pregnancy.
If we diagnosed your mare pregnant we have already placed you
on a reminder schedule for these vaccines. However, if we were
not a part of the initial pregnancy diagnosis you will have to
contact us with the breeding information so we can get you set
up for the proper vaccination prevention program for your pregnant
Also, it is coming up to the time of year to get your horse under
"lights" if you were thinking of breeding your mare
early next season to have an early foal. Artificial lighting
helps assure your mare to cycle earlier in the following year.
Mares should be placed under artificial lighting by November
1st for the most effective program to get some estrus activity
by January 15th. You should work up to 16 hours a day of light
(including both outside daylight and then standing under lights
at night). However, the light has to be strong enough at night.
Simply leaving the light on in the barn usually doesn't cut it.
A quick guideline is this: You should be able to read a newspaper
easily in the darkest part of the stall. By giving your mare
increased light through the winter months, you will "trick"
her body into cycling early. Her first checks can be mid January
to check for activity and we will hopefully be ready to breed
as early as February 10th using different methods of cycle control.
If breeding your mare early in the year is of interest to you
or you would like more information about your now pregnant mare
please call or email us for more information.
If anyone is looking for a cute "horsey" gift for a
younger child check out http://www.aqha.com.
They have an interactive CD Rom game called the Rising Star Horse
Camp that goes through several aspects of equine care such as
feeding, brushing, stall care, veterinary care, etc Likewise
it give quizzes on body parts or colors, and it has games such
as brushing all the dirt off the horses or picking which feed
goes with which type of horse. My five year old thinks it's great
and can play it well on his own. If you are interested from their
website go under shop, then childrens, then educational and you
should find it. Hope your loved one enjoys it as much as mine.
A client thought this was a cute story and decided to share it
with me, and now I'll share it with you. She had visited a riding
establishment to observe a student riding and began a conversation
with another observer. When she discovered that she too rode
horses, she inquired upon what discipline she rode. "Oh,"
the observer stated, "I use a crop."