Tuesdays with Tony
From my view at the front desk, and extensive inspection of trailers as they arrive and depart, I have determined that an awful lot of you are here for something called a Coggins. I have concluded that this is a test of the ability of my minions to take a picture of a horse with their ears forward. The shenanigans that go on to try to get three (or sometimes even just one) decent photographs of a horse amaze me on a daily basis. Apparently there is also a blood test involved, but that seems to be the easy part of this process. It seems these tests are always negative, so why are they necessary? Read on for words of wisdom from this wise cat.
What’s a Coggins test testing for?
Equine Infectious Anemia is a nasty, nasty bugger. This virus gets spread by insect bites. Usually it’s horseflies, but mosquitoes have been known to get involved, too. Here’s the annoying thing about this virus: it can float around a horse for years without any symptoms. All that time it’s busily infecting any willing horsefly or mosquito, and spreading itself to other horses. Equine Infectious Anemia is what’s known as a lentivirus. Another famous lentivirus: HIV. Just like HIV, Equine Infectious Anemia eventually destroys the immune system of an infected horse, leaving them susceptible to infections. All this sounds awful! I was horrified to learn there is a cat version of this virus called FIV.
How do you fight what you can’t find?
Prior to the late 1960s there was no way to even test for Equine Infectious Anemia. The Docs of that era (mine weren’t born yet), were left worrying if any horse with a fever had this dreaded disease, or a simple cold. There was no way to tell other than time. Outbreaks were tough to control because horses could be normal for so long before showing symptoms, and even then those symptoms were the same as many other much less serious viruses. From the first report of the disease in the United States in 1888, there were frequent outbreaks. Racetracks and breeding farms were often hit hard since it took time to recognize the presence of the disease. An outbreak at a racetrack in 1947 caused the death of 77 horses before it could be brought under control! This all sounded awful to me! Then came Dr. Coggins.
A way to test
Around 1968 Dr. Coggins worked out a way to test horses for Equine Infectious Anemia. And thus the Coggins test was born! That’s right, there’s a Dr. Coggins. Now horses could be tested to determine if their fever was Equine Infectious Anemia. By 1973, the State of Florida was the first State to make a negative Coggins test mandatory for horses being sold, or raced. Many of the Gulf Coast States were quick to follow, since the lovely hot, humid weather in these parts is great for the spread of Equine Infectious Anemia. It quickly became mandatory for horses traveling anywhere, for any reason.
Test, Test, Test
The Coggins test has caused a massive reduction in the incidence of Equine Infectious Anemia! In 2017, there were 80 positive horses in the United States. In 1975 that number was 10,371. That’s a huge difference!
There are other hidden things that happen as a result of Coggins tests. First, a veterinarian gets at least a brief look at your horse. This is so important, and I’m often appalled at the number of people who don’t value it. Having my Docs take a look and evaluate your horse yearly can help you head off major issues by addressing them when they’re minor. From teeth, to feet, to nutrition, to skin problems, the Docs can often offer quick, simple fixes in the early stages. Second, governments look at Coggins test numbers to estimate the number of horses in an area. This is how they help decide to spend money on local horse projects. Need an upgrade to your local State Park’s horse trails? Use Coggins numbers to show how many horses are around to use those facilities!
I know Coggins tests can be a bit of a pain. Who hasn’t been ready to go somewhere only to realize their Coggins expired yesterday? It’s always yesterday, never tomorrow. But if it means your horses get to live longer, happier lives, it’s a very small price to pay.
Until next week,
P.S. You should click over to the home page and check out all the upcoming seminars! If you haven’t been to one lately, you’ve been missing out on a great opportunity to hang out with me. And learn stuff about horses, of course.
Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!