Canada’s horse industry has been asked to halt imports of U. S. breeding stock, embryos and semen while inspectors check farms that may have used semen infected with an equine venereal disease.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) on Dec. 24 confirmed that farms in Ontario and Alberta received semen this spring from one of three Kentucky stallions that have since tested positive for contagious equine metritis (CEM).
CFIA and provincial officials are now tracing the U. S. semen shipments to identify potentially exposed animals. The agency said it has imposed quarantines on the Canadian farms in question, until all animals have tested negative for CEM.
CEM affects infected horses’ reproductive tracts and can cause temporary infertility in mares. Infected animals may not show symptoms, so CEM can be tough to detect and control. It’s usually treatable with antibiotics and disinfectants and has no known human health implications, but it’s still a reportable disease in Canada, which warns trade consequences may follow if the country loses CEM-free status.
CEM usually spreads during natural breeding, but also during artificial insemination and contaminated instruments and equipment. Infected stallions tend to be the major source of infection; they show no clinical signs but can carry CEM bacteria on their external genitals for years. The primary symptoms of infection in mares are usually, but not always, short-term infertility and vaginal discharge.
Any Canadian horse owner or veterinarian who suspects a horse is infected with CEM should “immediately” contact a CFIA district office.