Spring brings sunny weather and green pastures, but you know what else it brings? Mosquitoes and biting flies, of course! These pesky little insects are more than just an annoyance. They can transmit plenty of nasty diseases to your horse. To protect your horse, you’ll want to make sure it’s up to date on its vaccinations. I know, no one ever enjoys a visit to the doctor’s or veterinarian’s office. I’ve been convinced, however, a few sticks with a needle to get my vaccinations is much better than being sick.
You’ll want to work with your horse’s veterinarian to develop and implement the best vaccination schedule for your horse, but there are some general guidelines you should keep in mind. Vaccinations fall into two broad categories the core vaccinations and the risk-based vaccinations. All horses should receive the core vaccinations while risk-based vaccinations are administered to horses with a high risk of contracting the disease.
The core vaccinations include Eastern and Western equine encephalomyelitis (EEE/WEE), rabies, tetanus, and West Nile virus (WNV). The majority of horses have a high probability of being exposed to these diseases and the diseases are often fatal. Horses living in the southern US should receive EEE/WEE and WNV vaccinations every 4-6 months whereas those living in other areas should receive the vaccinations at least once a year in the spring. Spring vaccination is recommended because the highest rates of infection are seen in the summer when mosquito and biting fly populations are high. Rabies and tetanus are given on an annual basis.
Risk-based vaccinations include anthrax, botulism, equine herpesvirus (EHV), equine viral arteritis (EVA), influenza, Potomac Horse Fever (PHF), and strangles. The decision of whether or not to administer these vaccinations is based on your horse’s lifestyle and geographical location. For an example, horses on the east coast, especially in the vicinity of the Potomac River, are more likely to be exposed to PHF and thus, should be vaccinated against it. Exposure to influenza or strangles is most likely to occur when your horse is in contact with other horses at horse shows and similar events and thus, horses that travel often or are around horses that travel should be vaccinated against these diseases.
These guidelines can help you and your veterinarian design an appropriate vaccination schedule for your horse. All of the guidelines presented here are for mature horses who have been previously vaccinated. Broodmares, foals, and horses with unknown vaccination histories will require different vaccination schedules.
I think I’d better go talk to the folks here at the Equine Science Center about scheduling my spring check-up and vaccinations!
Until Next Time!