• What vaccinations do horses need?

    Vaccinations are one of the most important factors in ensuring the health and wellness of your horse. Today, more than ever, the need to vaccinate your horse is of utmost importance. In the past, there were fewer vaccines to choose from and horses were less susceptible to disease because they were less likely to travel and associate with other horses. With the increased popularity of horse shows and other equine events, people travel great distances with their horses and the level of exposure increases exponentially. Making sure that horse is properly vaccinated not only means choosing the most appropriate vaccines, but also ensuring that those vaccines are delivered on schedule.

    There are many factors in determining what vaccinations are appropriate for your horse. Your horse’s age, environment, lifestyle, and prior vaccination history are all important things to consider when deciding what vaccinations are needed. For instance, foals and weanlings require a unique set of vaccines that an adult horse will not necessarily need. Similarly, you will also need to assess the exposure your horse has to other horses and livestock.
    Vaccines can be divided into two groups, core and non-core vaccines.
    Core vaccines are essential for all horses and help protect against diseases that all horses (regardless of age, environment or lifestyle) are susceptible to.
    • Eastern, Western and Venezuelan Encephalitis – Also known as “Sleeping Sickness”. This virus is carried by mosquitoes and therefore is most likely to be contracted during the warm months. It is best to receiving this vaccination in the spring before the warm months hit. It is estimated that over 50% of horses that contract this disease die.
    • West Nile Encephalitis – Administered yearling in the spring. West Nile virus is a more commonly known virus that is also spread by mosquitoes.
    • Tetanus – Administered yearly. Tetanus spores can live in soil for years and causes “lockjaw” once contracted. Tetanus enters an open wound (a cut or puncture), multiplies and produces toxin. 80% of horses that contract this disease die.
    • Rabies – Administered yearly. A fatal disease that is contagious to humans.
    Most of the core vaccines will initially consist of a series of two or three shots, followed by a single shot every year thereafter.Non-core vaccines address diseases that typically occur only under a special set of conditions. Again, this could be your horses age, lifestyle, environment, etc.
    • Influenza – Administered every 6 months. Recommended for horses that are in contact with other horses because Influenza is highly contagious. If you have a horse that competes in rodeos or shows, or if your horse is boarded at a farm with numerous other horses (especially if there are regularly new horses coming and going) this vaccine is recommended. Symptoms include fever, depression, loss of appetite, and hacking and coughing.
    • Equine Herpes Virus – Administered every 6 months. Like the Influenza vaccine, this vaccine particularly applies to horses that are regularly around other horses. The Equine Herpes Virus (Rhinopneumonitis – also known as “Rhino”) causes flu-like symptoms and has been known to cause abortions in mares.
    • Streptococcus equi – Administered every 6 months. This is a somewhat debatable vaccine for a bacterial disease more commonly referred to as “strangles”. Strangles causes the formation of abscesses in the jaw and throatlatch area as well as respiratory disease. The reason we referred to this vaccine as debate is because it typically has a lower success rate and higher rate of negative side effects. Speak to your vet and determine if the benefits out-weigh the risks.
    • Equine Viral Arteritis – A virus that is known to induce abortions in mares, and cause fever, respiratory disease, and limb swelling in other horses. Consult your veterinarian about whether or not this vaccine is something you should do.
    Determining which non-core vaccines are right for your horse should be done by balancing your horses risk of contracting the disease and the severity of the disease. Always consult your veterinarian for advice.
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