Vaccinations for Horses Provides Essential Protection. Every horse comes into contact with potentially dangerous viruses and bacterial infections in the course of daily life. This makes vaccination a critical component of a comprehensive horse wellness plan. Equine vaccines provide protection against several dangerous and even potentially deadly diseases by stimulating the immune system.
Horse Vaccinations: Core Vaccines and Risk-Based Vaccines
Vaccines are essential for good health because they prepare a horse’s immune system to recognize and destroy potentially harmful pathogens before your horse comes into contact with the pathogen in daily life. There are many vaccinations for horses, some of which are considered essential for all horses (core), while others are recommended depending on the individual horse and his or her lifestyle (non-core). The American Association of Equine Practitioners recommends that all horses are vaccinated for rabies, tetanus, West Nile Virus, and eastern/western equine encephalitis. These are high-risk pathogens that are common throughout the country and have a high rate of infection and are very often deadly—which is why vaccinations against these diseases are considered “core” or essential for every horse. Dr. Griffin also recommends that all horses be vaccinated for equine herpes virus, and equine influenza.
Non-core horse vaccinations can be administered by your veterinarian based on how “at-risk” your horse is for those diseases. You and your veterinarian will need to discuss what diseases are prevalent in your area, your horse’s health condition, and your horse’s lifestyle. If your horse travels frequently for shows or works in areas where certain pathogens are endemic, your horse will be best served by getting extra vaccinations to protect against those diseases. Some examples of non-core horse vaccinations are: anthrax, botulism, Equine viral arteritis, Potomac horse fever, streptococcus equi and rotavirus.
When does a horse need to be vaccinated? Generally speaking, foals born to vaccinated mares (who pass on some immunity at birth for a short period of time) should start an initial core vaccination schedule at five to six months of age. They will need boosters that are based upon the particular vaccine manufacturer recommendation. For the course of the horse’s life, they will need to be boostered, some each year, some more or some less frequently, depending up on the particular inoculation.
Talk with your veterinarian today to make sure your horse’s vaccination schedule is current and providing him or her with the protection needed to stay healthy.