Both veterinarians and horse owners alike have a common goal to provide pet and patient with a long and healthy life. Good nutrition and proper housing are important elements in achieving that goal. Another essential part of the routine care we can provide to horses is vaccination.
A vaccine works by introducing some form of a disease-causing organism into the horse in an attempt to create an immune response. This immune response will help the horse fight that disease if encountered in the future. Sometimes vaccinated horses still become ill, but this does not mean we should stop vaccinating. Some diseases can occur as an outbreak and spread rapidly through a farm. Vaccinating your horses can help lessen the severity of an outbreak so only a few horses become ill instead of the majority of the herd.
There are several equine vaccines available that target different diseases and come in various combinations. Although vaccines are important, there is no single regimen that applies to all horses. Things that can affect which vaccines are right for your horse include age, travel, occupation, and geographical location. For instance, an older horse that stays on the farm in an established group would have different vaccine requirements than a thoroughbred in the racing circuit or even a broodmare.
The AAEP considers certain vaccines to be “core.” In other words, they are recommended for use in the majority of horses. These include Tetanus, EEE/WEE, Rabies, and West Nile Virus. Other vaccines are for use only if warranted, such as Potomac Horse Fever, Botulism, Rhinopneumonitis, Influenza, and Strangles, among others.
To give you an idea of how beneficial vaccinations can be, four of the five core diseases are often fatal and are a definite threat in Florida! These diseases are described below:
1. Tetanus: a disease caused by a type of bacteria, Clostridium tetani, which is found in the soil almost everywhere. Horses can contract this disease of paralysis in many ways, most commonly through wounds such as punctures or surgical sites. Foals can also contract the disease through the umbilical stump.
2. Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis (EEE): a disease of the central nervous system caused by a virus and transmitted by mosquitoes. EEE is almost always fatal, and can lead to lasting neurologic deficits if the animal survives.
3. West Nile Virus (WNV) : a disease of the central nervous system caused by a virus and is also transmitted by mosquitoes. WNV is usually only fatal in 30% of cases unless the horse becomes unable to stand. It is 70% fatal in these cases.
4. Rabies: a viral disease of the nervous system which is invariably fatal. It is spread by bites from infected animals such as foxes, bats, skunks and raccoons.
A small investment in vaccines can potentially help to save the life of your horse and save the expense of intensive care.
This may be a lot of information to process, but working with your veterinarian will help to determine the proper vaccine schedule for your horse. Both vaccine choice and administration schedule are important to the success of disease control. Please do not hesitate to talk with your veterinarian to be certain that you are providing the best protection for your horse. His/her health depends on it!