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Equine Vaccines

Last week I wrote about essential vaccines for small animals. What about horses?
There are loads of vaccines to choose from. Here are the ones I consider important for the “pasture ornament” and occasional trail horse: Rabies, Eastern and Western Equine Encephalitis, Tetanus, and West Nile Virus.
Rabies is important. As you and I both know, a horse is eager to investigate wandering creatures. A horse recently died of rabies in VA. Mosquito borne diseases like encephalitis and West Nile virus are a danger where there are lots of mosquitos. Try sleeping outdoors one hot summer night and see what your population is like. This is what your horse is exposed to every night! These are fatal diseases so vaccination is recommended. Tetanus is a danger to horses and it can be fatal. The tetanus vaccine is a toxoid which contains no live agents and is therefore safer than live vaccines. It is best to booster in the spring for mosquito borne diseases. I would recommend splitting up the vaccines and doing EWT and WNV in the spring and Rabies in the fall.
For show horses and those that travel, vaccination depends on what the horse may be exposed to and weighing the risk of vaccination vs. the risk of infection from a disease. Vaccines available are Flu (Influenza), Potomac Horse Fever, Rhino pneumonitis (herpes virus), and Strep Equi (Strangles). Some of these diseases are highly contagious. Keep in mind that diseases can spread from the traveling horse to other horses in the barn which do not travel. All of these can spread from contaminated premises and do not require direct contact. Equine Herpes virus has been in the news lately, and unfortunately the dangerous neurologic form is not prevented with vaccines. The bottom line is, if you are overnighting where other horses have been; consider expanding your vaccination program.
Many horse owners and vets like to use multiple vaccines all rolled into one shot. This is for convenience and economics only. For the horse’s benefit, I prefer to give fewer vaccines at one visit rather asking the immune system to do so much at once. I really do not like to see anaphylactic reactions, sore necks, and fevers post vaccination. If you have ever seen a horse die from an anaphylactic reaction, you will believe me when I say vaccines should be taken seriously.
Again ask these 4 questions:
1) Is my animal healthy enough to receive and mount a good immune response to a vaccination?
2) Is the vaccine safe and efficacious?
3) Is this a common disease my animal may be exposed to?
4) Is the disease treatable should I choose not to vaccinate?
Talk with your vet about your individual circumstances and needs. And consider splitting the vaccines into two rounds if your horse requires multiple vaccines. Remember that an EWTFLU contains antigens for four diseases, not just one! And after vaccinating, observe your horse for any adverse reactions for at least 30 minutes. Contact your vet for emergency help if you notice heavy breathing, bumps appearing on the skin, or signs of distress. Keep epinephrine in your barn if you administer your own vaccines and know how to use it. Happy Trails!

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January 25, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , ,

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