Horse owners warned to watch for equine infectious anemia

Equine infectious anemia can be hard to detect but infected animals become lifetime carriers of the virus


The province’s chief veterinarian is warning horse owners to be on the lookout for equine infectious anemia.

A case was recently found in Newell County by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), Dr. Keith Lehman said in a letter sent to vets across the province.

“The disease affects horses and other members of the equine family, such as donkeys and mules, and it is potentially fatal,” the letter states. “The EIA virus is most commonly transmitted on the mouthparts of horseflies and deer flies. It can also be transmitted by needles, syringes, or surgical instruments, or through the semen of an infected stallion. Foals can be infected in utero, and they are usually aborted or die within two months of birth.

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“There is no cure or available vaccine for EIA.”

The letter says infected animals are carriers of the virus for life. However, they may show few clinical signs of disease, particularly in the early stages of infection. Loss of co-ordination may be the only clinical sign observed, but indicators can be anorexia or weight loss; depression; general weakness; intermittent fever up to 41 C; jaundice; bleeding under the tongue and eye; or swelling of extremities.

Equine infectious anemia is a federally reportable disease.

“If you suspect your horse may be infected, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible,” states Lehman’s letter. “Many other diseases can cause the same signs in horses, which is why it’s so important to call your veterinarian to examine and possibly test your horse for EIA.

More information on the disease can be found at the CFIA website.

The letter was sent to animal owners who have registered their land location under the Premises Identification System. To check if your information is current or to make a change, go to Premises Identification Program on the Alberta Agriculture website or call 310-FARM (3276).

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