Friday, 29 April 2016

All About ... Equine Infectious Anaemia

What is it?

Equine infectious anaemia is a viral infection which affects horses worldwide, it also affects donkeys and mules.  It is a notifiable disease which means that if it is suspected the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) must be informed immediately!  This disease only affects horses and the last outbreak in Great Britain was in 2012 seen in Devon and Cornwall. It is also known as Swamp Fever or Horse Malaria. 

The virus destroys the red blood cells. There is no cure.   


Some horses show no signs of the disease.  There is an incubation period of 7 - 45 days (sometimes longer).  There are 3 forms, the acute, sub acute and the chronic form.  The sub acute seems to be the most common form.  Sadly the acute form is usually fatal. 

The symptoms suddenly appear .  May be the first episode or could occur after a chronic or sub acute episode.

  • High fever 
  • Depression 
  • Increased heart rate 
  • Increased respiratory rate 
  • Bleeding 
  • Loss of co-ordination 
  • Poor performance 
  • Rapid weight loss 
  • Jaundice 
  • Anaemia 
  • Weakness 
  • Swelling of lower abdomen and legs 
  • Death

Sub -acute:

  • Similar signs as the acute form but less severe 
  • Death rarely occurs


  • Fever 
  • Depression 
  • Low number of blood platelets 
  • Weakness 
  • Weight loss 
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Wobbly 
  • Muscle tremor 
  • Yellow and inflamed mucous membranes 
  • Fluid swelling under belly and in legs 
  • Anaemia develops later 
  • Poor performance 
  • Exhaustion
  • Death may occur

This disease will reoccur.  The time between episodes can vary from weeks to months and some episodes can be sub acute, chronic  and so on ...  Horses that do recover remain carriers for the rest of their lives.  In the UK this means the horse will have to be put down anyway.


Virus is transmitted by biting insects eg: horse flies or midges or by the use of non-sterile needles and blood contaminated surgical instruments. The virus is found primarily in the blood, however, all tissues and body fluids are potentially infectious.   


Blood test called the Coggins test.

  • No specific treatment 
  • Rest 
  • High protein feed 
  •  Antibiotics for any secondary infection


Biosecurity and yard hygiene can help prevent the spread of this disease.  Any suspected cases in the UK MUST be reported to the APHA - and will be controlled in line with contingency plans for exotic notifiable diseases.

 Luckily this disease is rare in the UK.

Have you seen Wednesday's video 'What you need for looking after a pony'  on my You Tube channel.  Horse Life and Love.  Please check it out and SUBSCRIBE.

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Until next time!

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