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Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA)

With spring upon us and prime trail-riding season underway, I'm getting several questions about equine infectious anemia. You want to know more about what equine infectious anemia is, what it does, how your horse can contract it, and mostly, how to prevent it.

Equine inefctious anemia (EIA) has been around a long time and has killed a lot of horses. Fortunately, we've learned quite a lot about it. The more you know, the better you can protect your horse. First, take a look at this good informational piece provided by the American Association of Equine Practitioners and Bayer Animal Health. Then read and follow the EIA-control tips I provide that relate specifically to trail riders.

Protect Your Horse from EIA

Equine infectious anemia (EIA) is a potentially fatal disease that threatens the world's horse, donkey, and mule populations. The virus that causes EIA reproduces in the white blood cells that circulate throughout the body. The immune system, via antibodies, may attack and destroy red blood cells, leading to anemia. Infected horses may die from the direct effects of the virus or from secondary infections.

Despite testing and measures to eradicate the equine infectious anemia virus (EIAV), more than 500 new cases are identified each year in the United States.

There's no cure for EIA. Although most horses show no symptoms, they remain contagious for life, endangering the health of other horses. For this reason, the United States Department of Agriculture and state animal health regulatory agencies require euthanasia or strict lifelong quarantine for horses testing positive for EIA.

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Your horse's only protection against EIA is prevention. Good management practices can reduce the potential of infection. The following guidelines will help:

• Use disposable needles and syringes, one per horse, when administering vaccines and medications.

• Sterilize instruments before using them on another horse.

• Test all horses for EIA at least annually.

• Test horses at the time of purchase examination.

• Stable owners, and horse show and event managers should require and verify current negative Coggins certificates (showing that the horses have tested negative for EIA) for all horses entering the premises.

• New horses should be quarantined for 45 days and observed for any signs of illness, including elevated temperatures, before introducing them to the herd. They should be retested if exposure to EIA is suspected at a 45-day interval.

• All stable areas should be kept clean, dry, and waste-free. Good pasture-management techniques should also be practiced. Remove manure, and provide adequate drainage to discourage breeding sites for pests.

• Horses at greater risk, such as those in frequent contact with outside horses or who live or travel in geographic regions known for EIA outbreaks, should be tested every four to six months.

For more information about EIA, ask your equine veterinarian for Equine Infectious Anemia: The Only Protection is Prevention, a brochure provided by the AAEP in conjunction with Educational Partner Bayer Animal Health. Additional information can be found on the AAEP's horse health Web site, www.myHorseMatters.com.

-Courtesy of the AAEP and Bayer Animal Health

EIA Tips for Trail Riders

EIA - also called swamp fever - plays an important role in the recreational activity in which we all love to participate. Trail riding affords us opportunities to travel to many areas, increasing the chance our horses will be exposed to the disease.

Most of us are very good about staying current on our health programs, including annual EIA testing. Unfortunately, we do sometimes come in contact with horse owners and/or premises managers who aren't as conscientious about their health programs, requiring the rest of us to take up the slack.

Here are some things you can do to help control EIA that are specific to trail tiding:

• Have your horse tested regularly. The number-one preventive measure you can take to help control EIA is routine testing. Make sure you get a Coggins test at least every year, and avoid riding or camping with those who do not. Note that most EIA carriers appear to be healthy, so don't hesitate to ask others if their horses have a current negative Coggins.

• Sterilize instruments/tools. Don't use anything that will transmit blood from one horse to another - such as dental floats (rasps), first-aid instruments, and even hoof-trimming tools - without thoroughly cleaning them first. Use disposable hypodermic needles.

• Control pests. Mosquitoes and biting flies are a common source of exposure. Control bloodsucking insects to help prevent exposure while you're riding and camping. Regularly spray your horse with repellent to help prevent bites. Pay special attention when riding in swampy areas or other places with a high biting-insect population.

Knowing about this disease, especially understanding its transmission and how widespread it is, gives you a jump on preventing it from infecting your horse, as well as other horses with which you come in contact. Help spread the word for our equine friends.

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