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Cat urinary tract disease: a common health problem

It has been estimated that 3 percent of all cats seen by veterinarians have cat urinary problems and show signs of Lower Urinary Tract Disease, or LUTD. Feline urinary disease can affect both the urinary bladder (such as cystitis, an inflammation of the bladder) and the urethra, the channel that carries urine from the bladder to the outside.
In some cases, cat urinary tract disease is caused by crystals or stones that form in the urine. These can irritate the lining of the urinary tract and partially or completely block the flow of urine.

In some cases, cat urinary tract disease is caused by crystals or stones that form in the urine. These can irritate the lining of the urinary tract and partially or completely block the flow of urine.

Feline Urinary Tract

How to recognize the symptoms of cat urinary problems

Your observations about changes in your cat’s appearance or behavior can assist your veterinarian in making an accurate diagnosis of a feline urinary tract disease. For example, urinating can be painful for a cat with lower urinary tract disease. Urine may be bloody, have a reddish tinge, or a strong ammonia-like odor. A cat with LUTD may:

  • make frequent trips to the litter box
  • cry when urinating
  • urinate outside the litter box
  • lick its genital area excessively

Occasionally, mucous plugs or crystals can block the urethra in cat urinary tract disease, making it difficult or impossible for your cat to urinate. These cats will

  • strain to urinate, with little success
  • display signs of anxiety, such as pacing or hiding

Consult your veterinarian immediately if your cat shows any of these behaviors. If an obstruction is not relieved it can lead to vomiting, loss of appetite, dehydration, collapse and even death.

Understanding feline lower urinary tract disease

Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (LUTD) can be caused by a number of factors, including:

  • stress
  • bacterial or viral infection
  • obesity
  • anatomical abnormalities
  • confinement
  • genetics

There are several different types of cat urinary tract problems. One type, associated with the formation of stones or crystals, is linked to conditions in the urinary bladder such as the concentration of minerals, the pH and the volume of urine.

Gender

Male and female cats can experience cat urinary problems, such as cystitis, but since male cats have longer and narrower urethras, their urinary tracts are more likely to become obstructed by crystals and mucous.

Breed

Urinary problems are more common in some breeds like Persians, while there is a lower incidence in Siamese cats.

Age

Young adult cats between the ages of 2 and 6 years are more likely to have lower urinary tract disorders, but cats of any age are susceptible.

Physical activity

Indoor cats seem to be more susceptible to cat urinary tract disease. This may be because confinement reduces physical activities, which in turn may reduce the amount of water consumed and the frequency of urination, allowing crystals to form in the urine.

Diet

High levels of ash and magnesium in the diet were once thought to cause crystal formation. More recent work indicates that urine pH and concentration are more important factors in the development of LUTD. Increasing water intake is highly recommended to help reduce the risk of LUTD.

Diagnosing your cat’s urinary problems

To determine the type and severity of your cat’s urinary disorder, your veterinarian will conduct a thorough physical exam. This includes gently feeling your cat’s abdomen to determine if the bladder is full, a possible sign of a blocked feline urinary tract.

Your veterinarian may also recommend tests such as a urinalysis to evaluate any crystals, blood cells and bacteria in the urine, as well as urine pH and concentration. If stone formation is suspected, an X-ray will help determine if stones are present. Not all types of urinary stones can be seen on x-rays, but struvite stones are generally visible.

Helping your cat recover from feline urinary tract disease

If your cat has an obstruction, your veterinarian will need to remove it immediately.

Most cases of feline LUTD are not caused by infection, but if infection is present, your veterinarian will prescribe antibiotics.

If there are struvite crystals in your cat’s urinary tract that aren’t blocking the flow of urine, a special diet can help dissolve those crystals and reduce crystal formation. Diets which help create urine that’s slightly acidic have a positive effect on reducing struvite crystal and stone formation. If signs persist beyond five to seven days of dietary therapy, consult your veterinarian.

Regardless of the type of feline urinary disease your cat is experiencing, increased water intake is recommended to increase urine volume. Your veterinarian may recommend a special diet that promotes increased water intake.

 

Article courtesy of: www.purinaveterinarydiets.com

When it comes to identifying arthritis in dogs, the earlier the better.

It is estimated that canine arthritis affects as many as one in five dogs older than one year of age1. Changes in the joint may occur even before the clinical signs of osteoarthritis are seen2. A common condition in dogs, dog arthritis is characterized by:

  • stiffness
  • lameness and
  • reduced mobility  Dog arthritis

Early care may contribute to the long-term health and happiness of your pet, so see your veterinarian early and often.

How do you watch for signs of canine arthritis?

Identifying the early signs of arthritis in dogs is a challenge because some adult dogs do not show obvious signs—another reason why regular veterinary visits are important.

  • Ask yourself these important questions:
  1. Does my dog have a hard time getting up in the morning or after lying down for a rest?
  2. Does my dog limp or appear stiff after exercise?
  3. Does my dog tire easily or lag behind on walks?
  4. Is my dog reluctant to climb steps or jump up?
  5. Does my dog pant excessively when he doesn’t seem hot?
  • By closely watching your dog for signs of dog arthritis, you can help alert your veterinarian to these changes.

 

Your veterinarian will establish a multi-faceted plan to help your adult dog

In canine arthritis, inflammation in the joint and cartilage may contribute to pain and weaken the joint. The goal of your veterinarian’s management program will be improving or maintaining joint function.

 

1. Dietary management may be recommended by your veterinarian.

This may include a food with nutritional characteristics such as:

  • high levels of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids to help with joint health and mobility in dogs with arthritis
  • high levels of antioxidants (vitamin E) to help reduce oxidative stress
  • a natural source of glucosamine for cartilage and joint health

2. Your veterinarian may establish a weight control program.

Overweight adult dogs tend to develop dog arthritis sooner than lean adult dogs, most likely due to the increased stress on weight-bearing joints. An estimated 25-30% of dogs examined by veterinarians are overweight3, putting this significant portion of the canine population at risk for canine arthritis.

3. Follow your veterinarian’s recommendations to keep your dog active.

Keeping your dog active is one of the keys to managing arthritis and living a full life. Regular exercise:

  • helps keep bones, muscles and joints healthy
  • strengthens the muscles and tissue around the joints, to better protect joints
  • improves overall strength, endurance and flexibility
  • helps with weight control

Consult your veterinarian about your dog’s exercise program. But remember,

  • start slowly
  • include exercises that are easy on the joints like walking or swimming
  • be consistent—exercise daily
  • don’t exercise during the hottest part of the day (and always take water along)

In addition to proper nutrition, exercise and/or a weight control program, your veterinarian may also prescribe medications to help with your dog’s canine arthritis. Always follow your veterinarian’s instructions carefully.

1. Johnston SA. Osteoarthritis: Joint anatomy, physiology, and pathology. Vet Clin North Am: Small Anim Pract 1997 July:27(4): 699-723.
2. Budsberg SC, Todhunter RJ, McNamara PS Jr. Use of chondromodulating drugs and substances in the prevention and treatment of osteoarthritis in dogs. In: Bonagura JD, editor. Kirk’s Current Veterinary Therapy XII: Small Animal Practice. Philadelphia: WB Saunders; 2000. p 1018-22.
3. Burkholder WJ. Use of body condition scores in clinical assessment of the provision of optimal nutrition. JAVMA 2000; 217(5): 650-3

 

Article courtesy of: www.purinaveterinarydiets.com

I just found out my cat has diabetes. What care will he need?

Feline Diabetes

 

The following article is taken from the “Purina® Animal Instincts” Podcast Series. Learn more at www.purina.com.

Cats tend to suffer quietly. But don’t be fooled by a stoic cat, especially if it’s diabetic. Diabetes strikes cats in different ways and they’ll react to treatment in their own way.

There are two types of feline diabetes and each requires different levels of care. In some cases, the illness can be controlled through a strict dietary regime. But quite often, feline diabetes requires more on the part of the owner. Daily injections of insulin may be called for, although in some cases insulin can be squirted into the kitty’s mouth.

So it goes without saying that a diabetic cat, stoic or not, takes a bit of effort. But most owners find they get used to the regime, and so does the cat. The effort ensures that both will be in good company for a long time to come.

– Dr. Larry McDaniel, DVM

Going to the Veterinarian – Preparations

Before your veterinary appointment:

waiting

  • Be sure you know if the veterinarian needs anything special for the appointment, such as samples.
  • Make a list of any medications or treatments your dog is receiving.
  • Inventory any treatments, such as medications, heart worm pills or flea and tick treatments, so you know if you need a refill.
  • Even for a routine checkup, observe your cat or dog closely in the days leading up to the visit. Check ears, eyes and coat for anything unusual. Observe any behavior changes – is your pet moving differently, or not doing things he used to? Any changes to eating or elimination? Ask your veterinarian about anything of note.
  • If your visit is for a specific issue or concern, write down any symptoms, when they happened, and any possible triggers. The more detailed the information your veterinarian has about what happens outside the office, the more informed her diagnosis will be.
  • And of course, remember to prepare for your pet’s time in the office – even if your pet is calm and well-behaved, this can be a stressful and unpredictable situation for pets. Be sure to have a carrier for your cat or leash for your dog so you can keep waiting-room interactions under control.

Tour Your Horse’s Teeth

Tour Your Horse’s Teeth

By Joanne Meszoly
Learn about your horse’s teeth and what makes them uniquely suited to the fibrous equine diet.
Equine teeth are perfectly designed to process tough roughage.

A flip of your horse’s lips gives you only a glimpse of the grass-nipping incisors at the front of the horse’s mouth. You can’t see the real dental workhorses, the molars that grind the fibrous roughage and hard grain kernels.

Along with those 12 incisors–six up and six down–the adult horse has double that number of cheek teeth, as the 12 premolars and 12 molars are called. Thus, all normal mature horse mouths contain at least 36 teeth, but the count can rise to 44.

Male horses usually have four canine teeth, one in each bar–the toothless span between the incisors and premolars–and some mares also produce a pair of canine teeth. Up to four “wolf” teeth may also appear in the bars of both sexes. Named for their pointed shape, these tiny, nearly rootless vestiges of an ancient premolar are nonfunctional holdovers from the species’ prehistory.

Equine teeth are built much tougher than ours because of dietary necessity.

“Our teeth wouldn’t last six months on a grass or hay diet,” says Jack Easley, DVM, who specializes in equine dentistry. “Eating grass isn’t like eating lettuce. If you run your fingers over a grass blade, you can feel the grit on it. For us, it would be like eating sandpaper all the time.”

Three key components, intricately folded and layered, create a strong, multi-ridged surface that can withstand the abrasive diet:
  • Dentin, a bonelike substance but harder still, comprises approximately half of the tooth, giving it its structural rigidity.
  • Enamel, a rock-hard material able to grind anything edible, runs in veins through the dentin.
  • Cementum, a slightly softer substance, coats the tooth, anchoring it to the bone and imparting the characteristic yellow tinge. (Human teeth get their pearly-white appearance from their enamel-only surface.)

Dentin and cementum wear a little more readily than enamel, continually exposing the enamel ridges in the chewing surface needed to process abrasive, tough roughage.

Completely formed at an early age, equine teeth erupt throughout the animal’s lifetime as the grinding surface slowly wears away. In a young adult horse, about one-quarter inch of a 4 1/2- to five-inch tooth is visible beyond the gum line, with the rest of the tooth stored in the dental socket. In a 5-year-old with his recently completed set of permanent teeth, the roots of the upper back molars reach almost to the eye socket.

“In young horses, the mandible and the sinus cavities are filled with teeth,” says Easley. “Studies show that a horse’s head weighs seven pounds more when he’s 4 years old than when he’s 15, due to his teeth.”

Equine teeth wear and erupt at a rate of about one-eighth of an inch annually, meaning that aging horses may run out of chewing equipment toward the end of their third decade of life.

“Around age 25 the tooth starts to get softer as it gets closer to the root, so the tooth may wear a little faster than it does in younger horses,” says Easley. “If a horse lives long enough, he’ll wear the tooth right down to the root.”

This article is excerpted from “Don’t Forget to Float,” which originally appeared in the September 2001 issue of EQUUS magazine

Now Offering: Equine Shock Wave Therapy

Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy Applications in Horses
By Erica Larson, New Editor, Apr 01, 2011, The Horse Magazine

 

Extracorporeal shock wave therapy is an increasingly popular treatment method for equine injuries. During a presentation at the 2011 Western Veterinary Conference, held Feb. 20-24 in Las Vegas, Nev., Scott McClure, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVS, of Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine, discussed the basics of extracorporeal shock wave therapy and a few its common uses.

The Basics of Shock Wave Therapy

Before discussing the applications of shock wave therapy, McClure described the two types of devices used in the treatment: ones that emit true shock waves, and those that produce radial pressure waves.

McClure describe true shock waves (SWs) as “pressure waves that meet specific physical parameters including a rapid rise time (within nanoseconds), high peak pressure, and a more gradual decrease in pressure of a few milliseconds, often with a negative pressure component.” Simply put, shock wave therapy aims a highly concentrated, powerful acoustical (sound) energy source to a focal area. He explained that the waves promote increased activity in bone-producing cells and might also boost circulation in the focal region. As a result, the focal area should heal more rapidly than if left untreated.

Alternatively, unfocused units emit radial pressure waves (RPWs), which provides significantly less energy, and it dissipates as it travels through the tissue, McClure explained.

“These devices tend to get melded together, but they’ve very different, so we try to use the correct terminology,” McClure said, adding that it’s important to understand the differences between SWs and RPWs, McClure added, as the two types of waves might affect the injured area differently.

McClure also explained that the exact mechanism by which shock wave therapy works is unknown.

Applications

McClure explained that some of the most common uses of shock wave therapies involve healing tendon and ligament injuries. He reviewed several studies in which researchers examined shock wave therapy use in several areas in the horse.

Suspensory Ligaments: McClure discussed two separate studies in which investigators reviewed the result of treating equine suspensory ligament lesions with shock wave therapy. In both studies, he noted, the injuries healed significantly faster in the test groups than the untreated control groups who that received stall rest with bandages.

He also noted that there was a better tendon fiber alignment in the treated group than the control group, and that lesion size was reduced more quickly in the treated group than the control group.

He explained that the suspensories in the forelimbs tended to heal better than those in the hindlimbs as, irrespective of treatment, hindlimb suspensory ligaments do not heal as well as those in the forelimbs.

Superficial Digital Flexor Tendonitis: McClure discussed a study that focused on the effects of shock wave therapy on superficial digital flexor tendonitis. Ultrasonographic exams of the control groups and case groups revealed that the affected tendon tissue appeared similar throughout the course of the study. However he noted that the horses treated with SWs showed a decrease in inflammation at the beginning of their treatment, and that the treated horses’ tendons “were more mature,” which suggests that they were healing faster than the control group.

He also noted that appearance of a bowed tendon diminished quickly in the case group, but he cautioned that this should not be taken as a sign that the tendon is fully healed.

He also noted that neither study evaluated how strong tendons (of both injured and uninjured animals) were after treatment: “We need to do a long-term study to follow up on the long-term strength of the tendons.”

Bone: McClure discussed several studies in which veterinarians used RPWs to treat Thoroughbred racehorses with dorsal metacarpal disease (commonly referred to as bucked shins) that had not responded to conventional therapy. After undergoing a treatment regimen which included shock wave therapy, rest, and controlled exercise, the horses returned to racing sound. He also discussed a similar study in which SWs were used; again, most of the horses were able to return to training.

“There is not a lot of shock wave therapy data to show how it affects fracture healing in the horse,” he said. “But clinically it seems to work in bucked shins and stress fractures.”

Finally, McClure said that coffin bone fractures can be treated through the horse’s frog using shock wave therapy. The waves will not travel through the hoof wall or the sole, he noted, so accurate placement of the focused shock waves on the frog is crucial.

Osteoarthritis: The treatment of osteoarthritis (specifically in the hock) was one of the first uses of shock wave therapy in the United States, McClure explained. Results, however, were mixed. He indicated that some horses remained the same before and after treatment, while others were markedly improved.

McClure stressed that the reasoning behind the difference in results is still unknown.

Burn Wounds: A relatively new technique McClure discussed was using shock wave therapy to help heal burns in horses. There is only one case study published on this topic, he explained, but he noted that itchiness, odor, and discharge decreased after each treatment.

“Again, this is just one case,” he said. “But this horse responded very nicely.”

Wound Management: McClure also shock wave therapy’s potential for aiding wound healing. Researchers on one study he reviewed revealed that treated wounds began decreasing in size faster and improved more quickly, epithelialized (regrew skin) and contracted more rapidly, and healed 14 days faster than their control group counterparts treated with conventional methods.

After the control wounds healed, there was no difference in limb circumference (the wounds were located on the lower legs), amount of proud flesh that formed, amount of bone lysis (decomposition) or proliferation (growth), and immunochemistry test results.

Analgesic Effects of Shock Wave Therapy

McClure noted that the analgesic (pain-killing) effects of SWs have been a concern since shock wave therapy first came into play. The Fédération Equestre Internationale, he explained, requires five days lapse between a shock wave treatment session and competition, McClure noted, and some American racing organizations require 10 days between treatment and a race.

He discussed a study in which researchers found that shock wave treatment has an approximately 48-hour analgesic effect on horse’s treatment area. He noted that the researchers found that the analgesic effect of the shock waves was similar to that of a local anesthetic.

“The concern … is that (the analgesic effect) wasn’t significantly different from administering a local anesthetic,” he said, explaining that the main concern is for an injury to be worsened due to the horse working under the analgesic effect.

“We don’t know why we get the analgesic effect,” he added.

 

Click here to view this article and similar articles published by The Horse Magazine

 

Foreign Body Ingestion Threatens Pets

Foreign Body Ingestion Threatens Pets

Understanding The Dangers From A Veterinarian’s Perspective

An In-Depth Look with Dr. Ingrid Pyka

 

Like toddlers, pets have a tendency to chew anything they can get into their mouths. This becomes a serious and potentially life-threatening problem if the objects are swallowed. An animal ingesting a long string or ribbon can develop a linear foreign body which is even more dangerous.

Foreign Body Ingestion Becoming More Common

VPI Pet Insurance reports foreign body ingestion as one of its most common claims, demonstrating the severity of this pet safety issue.  In 2007, VPI policyholders filed more than $3.2 million in claims for foreign body ingestion for dogs and cats combined.

Where Do “Foreign Bodies” Get Stuck?

The digestive tract is essentially a long tube, passing food from the mouth, down the esophagus, into the stomach, through the lengthy small intestine, then forming stool in the colon and out the rectum.

It generally takes ingesta (all that is swallowed) from 10-24 hours to move through the entire digestive tract. Some objects, however, can actually remain in the stomach for longer periods of time, even months.

When objects are too large to pass, they usually obstruct at the stomach outflow or within the small intestine itself. With linear foreign bodies, the continual movement of the intestinal tract can literally bunch the intestines into an accordion-like mass.

If the foreign body has managed to move to the colon, it will probably successfully pass. But, defecating a sharp object may prove painful and may even need veterinary assistance. Never pull protruding objects from your pet’s rectum. If it is still lodged inside, you can cause serious damage to the internal tissues.

Symptoms of Foreign Body Ingestion

Animals with ingested foreign bodies generally do not feel well. They often stop eating and/or act depressed. Initially, some cases with intestinal foreign bodies may have diarrhea.

Most patients with digestive foreign bodies exhibit vomiting. If the object has not fully clogged the digestive tract, the vomiting may be intermittent. But with a complete blockage, the dog or cat will be unable to keep anything down, including liquids. The longer the blockage lasts, the more critical the animal’s condition becomes.

Dogs and cats maintain no more than a toddler’s level of sense for their entire lives. Certainly some have a stronger tendency to swallow foreign objects, but all have the potential.

How to Diagnose Foreign Body Ingestion

In any medical issue, the first step is an examination by your veterinarian. Sometimes, feeling the abdomen may be enough to diagnose an obstruction.

If your veterinarian suspects an intestinal foreign body, he or she will probably recommend x-rays. Though a cloth or plastic object might not be obviously visible, anything metal, rock, or bone will be seen on the x-ray.

In a complete obstruction, the radiograph might reveal the tell-tale ballooning intestines at the blockage, similar to the pressurized, tied-off water hose seen in cartoons. Linear obstructive patterns also may be detectable.

Despite having clinical signs, however, the intestines may not have enough changes at the time of initial radiographs to diagnose the intestinal blockage. These patients may require repeat x-rays or a contrast study. This may not be an option if the patient is not stable or is actively vomiting.

In contrast films, the patient is given a contrast agent to swallow and a series of x-rays are taken over several hours. These monitor whether the contrast material moves through the intestines in a normal period of time, or, if it lingers or even stops at a certain point.

Sometimes an ultrasound can also help in finding obstructions in the stomach or intestines.

More difficult obstructive cases may not be diagnosable with imaging. Based on the history, symptoms, condition of the patient, and test results, the veterinarian may even recommend an exploratory surgery to find the suspected obstruction.

The Disastrous Cascade

If an intestinal obstruction has occurred, the dog or cat’s condition will decline. Repeated vomiting causes dehydration and electrolyte loss. This can severely weaken the patient.

The effect of the object on the gastrointestinal tract itself will also prove devastating to the body. The pressure of the foreign body against the intestinal wall together with the continued stretching or bunching of the intestines result in poor blood circulation to the tissues. This ultimately causes necrosis (dying off) of those tissues. In addition to being extremely painful, toxic enzymes release into the blood stream, initiating shock.

Eventually, the intestinal wall may break down and perforate (develop a hole). Once this occurs, the acidic and bacterial-contaminated intestinal contents leak into the abdomen. This results in peritonitis (infection of the abdominal space) and sepsis (infection of the bloodstream).

At this point, the patient is very critical. Without intensive intervention, this animal will die. With treatment, such patients can recover. Even the best of efforts, however, some may not survive.

Treating Foreign Body Ingestion

The patient must first be stabilized with IV fluids/electrolytes, pain control, and, if appropriate – antibiotic therapy. Blood tests help guide the veterinarian in assessing the pet’s status and addressing his or her needs.

If lucky, the animal may still have the object in the stomach. On occasion, vomiting does actually produce the offending item.

Some foreign bodies in the stomach may be removable with an endoscope. This approach uses a long fiber optic tube via the mouth, potentially allowing the veterinarian to retrieve the object without surgery.

Unfortunately, once the article lodges in the intestine, only abdominal surgery can remove it.

After removal of the foreign body, the patient will need a period of hospitalization for continued monitoring and recuperation. Critical patients may require intensive care for several days after the surgical procedure. These are NOT patients to treat conservatively.

Keeping Your Pet Safe

Dogs and cats maintain no more than a toddler’s level of sense for their entire lives. Certainly some have a stronger tendency to swallow foreign objects, but all have the potential.

Monitor your pet’s habits. Especially with puppies and kittens, keep small swallowable items picked up and out of their way. Discuss with your veterinarian appropriately sized chew toys, considering ALL the pets in your home.

Examine all chew toys and stuffed animals you offer your pets for small pieces that may be chewed off and eaten. Monitor the toys for damage. Discard any smaller remnants. Never leave strings or ribbons within reach of your pets – especially cats.

If you suspect that your pet has swallowed a foreign body, call your veterinarian immediately. If your pet exhibits signs suspicious of foreign body ingestion, your veterinarian will guide you in the best diagnostic approach at the time.

The sooner your pet receives medical attention, the better his or her chances of full recovery with fewer complications.

 

Click here to read this article and similar articles offered by VPI Pet Insurance

 

Coggins Explained

Equine Infectious Anemia – Jul 17th, 06
A Bayer HealthCare Animal Health brochure

Equine Infectious Anemia: The Only Protection is Prevention

Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA) is a disease that threatens the world’s horse, donkey and mule populations. Despite testing and measures to eradicate the equine infectious anemia virus (EIAV), more than 500 new cases are identified each year in the U.S. There is no cure for EIA. Although most infected horses show no symptoms, they remain contagious for life, endangering the health of other horses. For this reason, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA, www.usda.gov ) and state animal health regulatory agencies require euthanasia or strict lifelong quarantine for horses testing positive for EIAV.

EIA EXPLAINED

Equine infectious anemia is a potentially fatal viral disease. EIAV reproduces in white blood cells that circulate throughout the body. The immune system, via antibodies, may attack and destroy red blood cells, leading to anemia. Inflammation associated with the viral infection may damage vital organs, such as bone marrow, liver, heart and kidney. Secondary infections (e.g. pneumonia) may occur due to subsequent immunosupression. EIAV-infected horses may die from the direct effects of the virus or from secondary infections. EIA generally has three forms:

• Acute: Seen within one to two weeks after the horse’s first exposure to the virus, this phase is the most detrimental. It may be difficult to accurately diagnose acutely infected horses, as antibodies are not immediately produced and anemia is not present at this stage. However, the virus is active, multiplying and damaging the immune system and other organ systems.
• Chronic: If the horse survives the acute phase, a subacute or chronic phase may occur. The classic signs of EIA, such as fever, depression, weight loss, anemia and petechial (pinpoint sized) hemorrhages on the mucous membranes, are most likely seen in this phase. Repeated flare-ups of clinical signs often occur. Such episodes are seen with recrudescence of the virus and viremia (virus present in the bloodstream) during periods of stress or the administration of corticosteriods.
• Inapparent: Over time, the periodic episodes decrease in severity and frequency. Within a one-year period many horses begin to control the infection and show no clinical signs. These inapparent carriers are infected for life and may be a source of infection for other horses
TRANSMISSION

EIAV is transmitted by blood or by in-utero passage from mare to foal. Blood transmission can occur via blood-sucking insects, such as horse flies, deer flies and mosquitoes. The virus is carried in the residual blood on the insect’s mouthparts as it travels from one horse to the next. Transmission may also occur via blood transfusion or blood-contaminated needles and instruments. The virus may also be found in semen and milk. EIA is also known as “swamp fever” because the disease has been associated with warm, wet regions, but the disease is not limited by geography. States reporting the highest incidence of EIA (2001 data) include: Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, South Dakota, Mississippi, Minnesota, Michigan, Alabama and Florida.

SYMPTOMS

EIA may be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms are not specific and may vary from horse to horse. Additionally, individuals may demonstrate no obvious signs (inapparent carriers). Signs may include one or more of the following:

• Fever (temperature may even exceed 105 degrees F)
• Depression
• Mucosal petechial hemorrhages
• Decreased platelet numbers (thrombocytopenia)
• Decreased red blood cell numbers (anemia)
• Swelling of legs, lower chest and abdomen (edema)
• Decreased appetite (anorexia)
• Fatigue, reduced stamina or weakness
• Rapid breathing
• Sweating
• Rapid weight loss
• Nasal bleeding (epistaxis)
• Pale or yellowish (icteric) mucous membranes
• Irregular heartbeat and/or weak pulse
• Colic
• Abortion
THE COGGINS (AGID) and C-ELISA TESTS

The only way to accurately determine whether a horse is infected with the EIA virus is by identifying antibodies in the blood via agar gel immunodiffusion (AGID) or competitive enzyme linked immunoadsorbent assay (C-ELISA) tests. The AGID method is considered the “gold standard” and is commonly known as the Coggins test. This test was developed 25 years ago by veterinary researcher Dr. Leroy Coggins. A negative Coggins test means there are no detectable antibodies at the time of testing. A positive test indicates the horse is infected and a carrier of the virus. C-ELISA tests offer the advantage of rapid results. However, false-positive results are more common with the C-ELISA tests and positive results should be verified by a standard Coggins (AGID) test. Foals may be false positive due to maternal antibodies passed via colostrum for as long as six months with either test.

FEDERAL & STATE REGULATIONS

The USDA requires that horses being imported from foreign countries have a negative AGID EIAV test. Within the U.S., each state drafts its own specific requirements regarding EIAV and the movement of horses interstate, intrastate and in change of ownership. Learn what is required in your state and states you will be visiting. Be aware that laboratory results take time and plan to have your horse tested in time to get results before you must transport your horse. By law, EIA is a reportable disease. All positive cases must be filed with the state veterinarians and the federal Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS, www.aphis.usda.gov).

RISK FACTORS

There are management and geographic factors that put horses at greater risk for contracting EIA. These include:

• Close proximity to regions where EIA outbreaks have been identified.
• Stabling or pasture environments that have a steady influx of new horses, especially if negative Coggins certificates are not required.
• Exposure to horses at shows, sales or events, especially where stringent health care regulations are not enforced and verification of a current negative Coggins test is not required.
• Pasturing horses in swampy areas and in areas where all horses have not been regularly tested for EIA.
THE ONLY PROTECTION IS PREVENTION

There is no effective treatment for EIA. There is no vaccine to prevent it. There is no cure. However, good management can reduce the potential of infection. The following guidelines will help:

• Use disposable needles and syringes (one per horse) when administering vaccines and medications.
• Test all horses for EIA at least annually.
• Test horses at the time of purchase examination.
• Stable owners, horse show and event managers should require and verify current negative Coggins certificates for all horses entering the premises.
• 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 that are at greater risk (such as animals who are in frequent contact with outside horses or who live or travel in geographic regions known for EIA outbreaks) should be tested more frequently, ideally every four to six months.
DIFFICULT CHOICES

If your horse tests positive for EIAV, your options are extremely limited. Federal and state health agencies, as well as the American Association of Equine Practitioners, support euthanasia as the most prudent, albeit emotionally difficult, option. Lifelong quarantine in a screened stall is another, less acceptable alternative. EIAV-positive horses will always pose an unnecessary health risk to other horses, whether or not they show signs of illness. Even in the best management situations, blood-sucking insects cannot be totally controlled or eliminated. The only way to eradicate the disease is to eliminate the carriers. Horses testing positive for EIAV are required by law to be permanently identified via branding or tattooing and be quarantined. Transportation and housing are severely restricted. You should contact your state animal health agency for specific requirements. Owners who choose quarantine must post signs clearly stating: “Quarantined: Equine Infectious Anemia” or “Swamp Fever.” Horses should be quarantined at least 200 yards away from all other animals.

CONTINUED VIGILANCE NEEDED

Stopping the spread of EIAV is everyone’s responsibility. If you suspect a horse has EIA, call your veterinarian or state animal health agency immediately. They can assess the animal and initiate the required tests. Owner compliance with EIAV testing and the destruction of most known reactors has aided in a marked decline in EIA cases in the last 20 years. Today less than one percent of the 1 million horses tested annually are found to be carriers. But with an estimated 6.6 million horses in the U.S., more widespread screening is needed. Even backyard horses that never leave the property will benefit. By having your horse tested, you will be doing yourself and the entire equine industry a favor. The cost is minimal and the price well worth the peace of mind.

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