Get your Coggins test for 2011

Despite changing rules about Coggins tests, it is important to get them done to ensure the health of your horse and others.

Rumors are swirling that Michigan’s law requiring an EIA (Coggins) test has expired so horse owners no longer need to have their horses tested. The answer is yes and no. Make sure you know what to do before you head off to your local 4-H show, state or interstate horse show event.

The 2000 law that required owners of equines attending fairs and exhibitions and other equine co-mingling events, or changing ownership and housing location to have proof of a negative EIA (Coggins) test has technically expired “Yes” that is true.

“No” you should not fail to have an EIA test in as soon as possible in 2011, for several reasons. First is to be certain that your horse does not have the disease that could be transmitted to other horses. There is no effective and safe vaccine, nor can infection be treated. Secondly, the Michigan Department of Agriculture is working to update the law for 2011 and to make it an annual event based on a 12 month cycle. So you may yet still be required by law to test in 2011. Finally, effective January 1,2011 all equidae (horses, asses, jacks, jennies, hinnies, mules, donkeys, burros, ponies, and zebras) entering Michigan must have a negative EIA test within the prior 12 months, except for equidae that are 6 months or younger and nursing.

Once infected, the animal is infected for life. There is no effective vaccine and no known cure. When infected with the virus, the horse will develop a fever, be off feed, and possibly show some bruising of the mucous membranes. After recovering from the initial illness, some horses develop recurring cycles of the above symptoms that lead to the classic signs of anemia, weight loss, and ventral edema. The frequency and severity of these episodes decrease with time. Most horses do not die, but become asymptomatic carriers (i.e., animals with no signs of illness who are still capable of spreading the disease). Many horses that are infected will show very few of these symptoms and quickly become asymptomatic carriers. These mild symptoms can easily be mistaken for other less serious diseases. Animals that are currently showing signs of disease have larger amounts of virus in their blood than asymptomatic carriers, but both can spread the disease. EIA is not contagious to people and is not directly contagious from horse to horse.

If you are planning to travel into other states or Canada you also must have a current negative EIA test, check carefully to be sure to comply with export requirements. You will not be permitted to enter Canada for any reason without a stamped USDA Health Certificate, (which is good for multiple entries within 30 days). You will also not be permitted reentry into the United States without the Health Certificate. Most other states, shows, and events still also require an official Veterinarian Inspection interstate health certificate, including a current EIA test. It is not worth the risk to be delayed while travelling for the lack of proper health certificates, risking fines, or risking quarantine of your horses or equidae.                        

Special thanks to Karen Waite, MSU Extension Equine Specialist for her contribution to this article. For more information on Horse Health Certificates contact David Stroud or the Michigan Department of Agriculture.

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