Vaccines and Your Horse

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A “standard” vaccination program for all horses does not exist. The American Association of Equine Practitioners has developed a list of Core or recommended vaccines for each horse. Other vaccines are administered on a case by case basis depending on the risk of exposure to theses diseases.

Core Vaccines

  • Tetanus – an often fatal disease caused by a potent neurotoxin  from the anaerobic, spore-forming bacterium, Clostridium tetani.
  • Eastern/Western Equine Encephalitisa neurologic disease caused by a virus which can be transmitted by mosquitoes. Typically 90% of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) cases die from the disease.
  • Rabiesan infrequently encountered neurologic disease of horses.  While the incidence of rabies in horses is low, the disease is fatal and has considerable public health significance.
  • West Nile VirusA neurologic disease of horses typically spread from one infected animal to another by biting flies or mosquitos. Horses represent 96.9% of all non-human mammalian cases of WNV disease.

Non-Core Vaccines

Equine Influenza (Flu), Rhinopneumonitis (Rhino), Strangles, Potomac Horse Fever, Botulism

There are risks with vaccination and each individual situation requires evaluation based on the following criteria:

  • Risk of disease (anticipated exposure, environmental factors, geographic factors, age, breed, use, and sex of the horse)

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  • Consequences of the disease
  • Anticipated effectiveness of the selected product(s)
  • Potential for adverse reactions to a vaccine(s)
  • Cost of immunization (time, labor and vaccine costs) vs. potential cost of disease (time out of competition; impact of movement restrictions imposed in order to control  an outbreak of contagious disease; labor and medication if, or when, horses develop clinical disease and require treatment, or loss of life.)

A good vaccination program is always recommended, however, it is important to realize that:

  • Vaccination alone, in the absence of good management practices directed at infection control, is not sufficient for the prevention of infectious disease.
  • Vaccination serves to minimize the risks of infection but cannot prevent disease in all circumstances.
  • The primary series of vaccines and booster doses should be appropriately administered prior to likely exposure.
  • Each horse in a population is not protected to an equal degree nor for an equal duration following vaccination.
  • Protection is not immediately afforded the patient after administration of a vaccine that is designed to induce active immunity. In most instances, a  priming series of multiple doses of a vaccine must be administered initially for that vaccine to induce protective active immunity.
  • All horses in a herd should be vaccinated at intervals based on the professional opinion of the attending veterinarian