Tennessee state officials are warning about a disease in horses known as equine infectious anemia (EIA).
Interim State Veterinarian Dr. Doug Balthaser said the illness stems from bloodborne parasites, causing fevers and could ultimately lead to death.
“There can be an acute phase when they get real anemic… and the horse could die,” Balthaser. “It’d be like if you’ve ever had a puppy dog with hookworm where they get real anemic real fast. Basically, their blood count gets so low, they can’t support life and they’ll die from that.”
At least five horses with EIA have been euthanized in Tennessee this year. A stable in Shelby County euthanized a horse with the disease last week.
Clay County Animal Hospital’s Dr. Dawn Lindsey said the disease can easily be carried from horse to horse.
“Basically it is really similar to the AIDs Virus and is spread through by mosquitoes and by flies and deer flies,” Lindsey said. “So with all those factors being very common if that was to take root hold in an area, you could feasibly get a very sick population of horses very quickly.”
Lindsey said horse owners in the Upper Cumberland can reduce the chances of the disease.
“My biggest thing is prevention by keeping your horse free from flies as best you can and then also you are testing and keeping a relationship with your local vet can go a long way.”
Lindsey said researchers have not found a cure or vaccine for the retrovirus.
“Horses are required by law if they are traveling to have an annual Coggins test which tests for Equine Infectious Anemia,” Lindsey said. “Even if your horse doesn’t travel, your horse really should be checked yearly.”
Tennessee State Law requires horses diagnosed with EIA to go into a permanent quarantine or be euthanized.