I am depending on you to vaccinate me!

Spring is just around the corner, and that means time for horse shots! There is not one vaccination program that is appropriate for every horse, every time, every year. On Friday I had the veterinarian come out to my barn to give part one of this year’s vaccinations for my horses. Then in two weeks my vet will come out again and administer the remaining vaccines that we have decided will be most beneficial for my horses this 2016 riding season.  My veterinarian recommends splitting the shots into two appointments because it can be a lot on the horse to be given all vaccinations at once.

This year I am looking forward to having two horses to ride and travel to organized horse events, so I am adding a few elective vaccines to the recommended core vaccines after consulting with my veterinarian. I am adding to the core list for this year; Flu/rhino and a booster for Potomac Horse Fever that I just started to vaccinate against in October 2015. The Potomac Horse Fever vaccination is safe although it is not necessarily the most effective vaccination. I have added that to my horse vaccine plan due to it being present down the street from my barn this past summer and fall of 2015. Vaccination is absolutely worth doing for me living so close to the area that had a positive test of Potomac Horse Fever that was fatal for the horses that contacted the disease.

P1130558(1) chain 1 twitch
With my two horses, as you would expect, one horse is unaffected by the whole process, and the other is highly reactive to the whole process. I am sure you can guess by now which requires extra time to complete this task in a positive way. With the help of a lot of treats and “small talking” with my veterinarian while hanging out in Cheyenne’s stall, we were able to successfully and without much ado give her the first series of shots. The harder part came when we needed to draw blood from her. Since it was just me and my veterinarian, my vet suggested if necessary we could use a chain lead rope over her halter or perhaps a twitch, but after discussing the pros and cons of those with my horse Cheyenne, we both decided to just continue to talk and give more treats. It worked! The vet was able to draw blood and although it didn’t go completely perfect, I was told Cheyenne was better than many foals and other horses.

What are the core vaccinations?
The AVMA defines core vaccinations as those “that protect from diseases that are endemic to a region, those with potential public health significance, required by law, virulent/highly infectious, and/or those posing a risk of severe disease. Core vaccines have clearly demonstrated efficacy and safety, and thus exhibit a high enough level of patient benefit and low enough level of risk to justify their use in the majority of patients.” The following equine vaccines meet these criteria and are identified as ‘core’ in these guidelines:
– Rabies
– Tetnus
– Eastern/Western Equine Encephalomyelitis
– West Nile Virus
These are recommendations for healthy adult horses who have been vaccinated appropriately in the past.
1. Rabies:
• Although rabies is infrequent in horses, it is a significant risk to people and is 100% fatal. It is therefore considered a core vaccine.
• Vaccine Schedule: Annual booster.
2. Tetanus:
• Tetanus is a progressive and often fatal disease caused by the bacteria Clostridium tetani, which is ubiquitous in the environment.
• The disease is caused by a neurotoxin that is produced when the bacteria infects wounds (especially puncture wounds and deep lacerations).
• It causes progressive “stiff” paralysis that can be fatal if not treated.
• While the disease is not contagious among horses or people, horses are very sensitive to the neurotoxin and therefore tetanus is considered a core vaccine.
• Vaccine Schedule: Annually or at the time of a wound or surgery.
3. Eastern Equine Encephalitis/Western Equine Encephalitis (EEE/WEE):
• These are neurologic diseases that cause a range of symptoms in horses and people including fever, lethargy, recumbence, seizures, mental dullness and death.
• They are transmitted by mosquitoes and other blood sucking insects from birds and rodents to horses or humans.
• They are NOT contagious from horse to horse, human to human or horse to human.
• The Northeast is considered endemic for these diseases and there have been deaths in horses in the recent past confirmed caused by EEE.
• The vaccines available are highly efficacious and very safe.
• Vaccine schedule: Annually or bi-annually, depending on risk factors including mosquito prevalence, travel, and time of spring vaccine.
4. West Nile Virus:
• West Nile Virus causes neurologic disease similar to EEE and WEE
• It is 33% fatal in horse and surviving animals often have long term effects of the disease.
• Over 24,000 cases since 1999 in US horses. The number of new cases per year in horses continues to decrease (probably because we vaccinate so well!)
• The vaccines available are highly efficacious and very safe.
• Vaccine schedule: Annually or bi-annually, depending on risk factors including mosquito prevalence, travel, and time of spring vaccine.
5. Equine Herpes Virus (EHV)/Rhinopneumonitis:
• Rhino is caused by Equine Herpes Virus (EHV). It is divided in to subtypes EHV-1 and EHV-4.
• It causes a variety of clinical disease, including abortion, weak or stillborn foals, acute neurologic disease and upper respiratory disease. This disease group has been very controversial in the last several years due to neurologic outbreaks.
• It is highly contagious from horse to horse via nasal secretions and can live in the environment for at least 14 days.
• The vaccines do NOT protect against the neurologic form of the disease. However, the vaccines may help reduce spread of the disease from horse to horse.
• Vaccine Schedule: Bi-annually (or more frequently if warranted) Due to the highly contagious nature of the disease, and the fact that the vaccine may not provide long-lived protection.
6. Influenza:
• Influenza causes similar signs to human flu. High fevers, lethargy, nasal discharge, cough.
• Influenza has many strains and sometimes the vaccine doesn’t protect against them all. The vaccine is only protective for 4-6 months.
• It is highly contagious and is most common in horses that travel a lot and are exposed to new horses, or at show grounds, race-tracks, etc.
• Vaccine Schedule: Bi-annually is recommended, or more often if travelling and showing frequently.
• NOTE: Influenza comes in a combination vaccine with Rhino. (Flu/Rhino)
7. Potomac Horse Fever:
• Caused by Neorickettsia risticii (formerly Ehrlichia risticii), this disease has a complex lifecycle, including snails and slugs. It is believed to be transmitted to horses through accidental ingestion of insects (mayflies, caddis flies, aquatic insects) who have ingested the organism in water. It is therefore more common in areas with water, snails, and aquatic insects.
• The disease is seasonal, worse in summer months, and is more common in areas South of Maine. However, recently there have been several suspicious cases in Maine.
• Clinical signs include fever, diarrhea, lethargy, colic, and laminitis. Unfortunately, the disease is often fatal.
• The vaccine has variable efficacy and is not known to have long lasting immunity.
• Vaccine Schedule: Annually or bi-annually for horses in high risk areas or horses that are travelling South.
8. Strangles:
• Caused by a bacteria, Streptococcus equi, strangles is characterized by high fever, thick mucopurulent nasal discharge (mucous and pus) and swelling and abscessing of the lymph nodes of the head and upper throat.
• The organism is persistent in the environment and is highly contagious from horse to horse.
• There are two types of vaccines. One is injectable (intramuscularly) and one is intranasal (squirted up the nose). Because of the different methods that these vaccines create immunity, they are not interchangeable. In other words, if your horse was previously vaccinated with the injectable form, then switching to the intranasal form would require an initial series of two vaccines.
• Vaccine Schedule: Annually. Recommended for horses that travel, show or live in barns that have horses coming in and out on a regular basis.


In addition to the vaccines, every two years I get a Coggins test on my horses. Many states require mandatory Coggins tests before a horse can be brought across state lines and why so many horse professionals, breeders, etc. require a negative Coggins test before a horse is bought, sold, moved into a new barn, allowed to enter a horse show or other event, auction, etc.  The Coggins Test is a blood test that checks for Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA) antibodies in a horse’s blood. It is used to diagnose a contagious disease that affects horses worldwide. EIA is also known as Swamp Fever because it is common in hot, muggy environments. There is no cure for EIA. It is contagious and can be fatal. The death rate is estimated to be 30% to 50% of horses who are infected with the virus. (That means about 50% to 70% survive the disease). If the horse survives, they will continue to be a carrier of the disease for the rest of their lives and therefore a danger and a threat to any other horses that they come in contact with.

It is important to vaccinate your horse.  I am an owner that leans to more vaccine protection for my horses than less.  I know there are owners that do just the rabies, but when there are serious and deadly diseases that could be prevented with a vaccine, I would rather vaccinate than take a chance of not being protected.  The side effects of vaccinating are minimal compared to the disease.  Research the vaccinations and talk to your vet and then make the important decision for your horse who is depending on you.

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

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One thought on “I am depending on you to vaccinate me!

  1. Anonymous

    You are so great, with you attitude toward life, your equine care, and especially with your journalism!


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