The appropriate selection and timing of vaccinations for your horse are important factors in an equine health maintenance routine. AAEP (the American Association of Equine Practitioners) sets guidelines for equine vaccines based on a variety of factors including:
- Risk of exposure
- Disease concerns are dependent upon which area of the U.S. a horse resides. Eastern, Western, and West Nile encephalitis are all carried by mosquitoes which, in Indiana's often temperate climate, can be present nearly any time of year. Disease exposure also varies from farm to farm. Horses in barns that have many horses coming and going throughout the year will have increased risk of exposure to contagious diseases, such as Strangles and Equine influenza, as will horses that travel to shows and sales. Farms with wet areas such as ponds, marshes, and low areas where water collects give horses increased exposure to Potomac Horse Fever, which is transmitted by a small snail.
- Consequences of the disease and vaccine effectiveness
- Veterinarians and horse owners must take into account the affects of a disease and effectiveness of vaccines when choosing what to vaccinate for. For instance, tetanus is a deadly disease that is difficult and costly to treat when a horse is affected, but the vaccine can easily prevent the disease and save the owner the cost of treating and risk of losing their horse. Eastern, Western, and West Nile encephalitis are also very efficient at preventing their respective diseases. Rabies, a disease that has long been studied and vaccinated against, is the single most dependable vaccine on the market. There is no way to treat a horse once they have been exposed to rabies and it is highly transmissible to people once a horse is infected. The only way to effectively prevent the disease is to vaccinate. The vaccine for Potomac horse fever is not completely preventative but if a vaccinated horse contracts the disease, it will have much less severe symptoms than an infected horse that is unvaccinated. At Conley and Koontz we can discuss your individual vaccine program based on your horse's needs and risk of exposure.
One of the most difficult things to understand about vaccines is that they are not 100% guaranteed to prevent disease. There are a multitude of factors that contribute to a horse contracting a disease, including stable environment, insect exposure, the physiologic status of the horse, and the horse's individual immune system. However, vaccination is very inexpensive when compared to the cost of treating a horse after contraction of a disease that could have been prevented with a vaccine. At Conley & Koontz, the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture our vaccines guarantee protection for Eastern, Western, and West Nile encephalitis, as well as Equine Influenza and Tetanus. If your horse has been appropriately vaccinated by your veterinarian according to the vaccine recommendations and contracts one of the above diseases, the manufacturer will pay to treat the disease.
There are several principles of vaccination that are important to follow carefully in order to confer adequate protection for your horse.
- A primary series of vaccines must be administered at the appropriate times prior to possible disease exposure. If you have a horse that has not been vaccinated before, or if you are unsure of the vaccine history, it is important to give a booster one month after the initial vaccination. Without a booster, the vaccination is not as effective and your horse will not develop adequate protection against the disease. Also, if you are traveling to a horse show, sale, or other venue, it is ideal to have your horse vaccinated at least 3 weeks prior to travel. This will allow adequate time to mount a protective immune response. Vaccinating too close to the event will not allow your horse to be protecting against the disease if exposure occurs.
- All horses in a herd should be vaccinated at regular intervals according to the attending veterinarian. Vaccinating only certain horses could allow unvaccinated horses to contract a disease and spread it to other horses in the facility.
- Pregnant mares should be vaccinated according to the schedule of your veterinarian. Vaccination for rhinopneumonitis should be given at 3, 5, 7, and 9 months of gestation to prevent abortion due to equine herpes virus. Rotavirus vaccine should be given at 7 and 9 months of gestation, and prior to foaling to aid in preventing rotavirus infection in foals after birth. Prior to foaling, the mare should also be boostered with all her annual vaccinations including Eastern and Western encephalitis viruses, West Nile virus, tetanus, influenza, rhinopneumonitis, strangles, Potomac Horse Fever, and rabies. This will confer immunity to the foal and aid in protecting against disease until the foal is vaccinated at 5 months of age.
- Vaccines should be administered by a licensed veterinarian to ensure that they are appropriately given with minimal risk of side effects. If side effects occur, the presence of a veterinarian will allow treatment to be administered if needed.
- Vaccines should only be purchased from a licensed veterinarian. Those sold at commercial stores do not carry a vaccine guarantee and handling/storage of the vaccines may not be reliable and could decrease the effectiveness of the vaccination.
AAEP's core vaccines, for which ALL horses should be vaccinated, include:
- Eastern Equine Encephalitis
- Western Equine Encephalitis
- West Nile Virus
At Conley & Koontz Equine Hospital, we regularly vaccinate against the following diseases based on the needs of the individual horse.
- Equine Influenza
- Equine Herpes Virus (rhinopneumonitis)
- Potomac Horse Fever
These diseases are prevalent in the equine population in Indiana and can either be prevented or have decreased severity of signs with vaccination, so are very important to include in your preventative health program.
To learn more about how you can prevent disease transmission, see our educational article Simple Steps to Infectious Disease Control. Our Vaccine Recommendations can also be accessed on our website. For more information, you can view AAEP's Vaccination Guidelines.
If you have questions or concerns about your horse's vaccination program, please contact Conley & Koontz Equine Hospital at 877-499-9909 or firstname.lastname@example.org.