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Vaccination makes sense for every horse

Horses can contract infectious diseases in two ways: from other horses, and from their environment. Even horses that live alone can contract infectious diseases from contaminated feed, water, or soil, or from infected insects or wild animals. Prevention has never been so important. The number one way to do this is through an effective vaccination program.

Which vaccines does my horse really need?

Like most Canadian and international horse owners, you might ask yourself this question every year. After all, when your horse is healthy and happy, it’s easy to postpone annual vaccines. However, vaccination is essential to keep your horse healthy—and in some cases, alive—for the long run.

Your veterinarian is an important resource when developing a vaccination protocol that is right for your horse. Take the following factors into consideration when discussing vaccination with your veterinarian:

Risk of disease

The age, breed, and sex of your horse all have an impact on his or her risk of contracting certain diseases. Additionally, your horse could be exposed to environmental risks at your farm, ranch, stable, or beyond. Does your horse share facilities or equipment with other horses? What is her daily schedule like? Is he often in the field at daybreak or dusk? These are some of the questions that you need to ask yourself to determine the level of risk that is specific to your horse and his environment.

Geographical region

Does your region contain an environmental element that could indicate a greater risk of contracting a disease? Have there been recurrent outbreaks of a specific disease in your region in the past? Take, for example, an alarming increase in the number of ticks in certain areas, or favourable weather for the reproduction of mosquitoes. Your geographical region could also be important in determining the ideal time of year to vaccinate.

Disease consequences

Is your horse exposed to potentially life-threatening diseases? Would you be putting many horses at risk if there were a disease outbreak? What would the financial implications be if your horse did become gravely ill and unable to function for weeks, or possibly even months? These questions are important in determining which vaccines are appropriate for your horse’s individual circumstances.

Once you’ve had a chance to evaluate the factors that play a role in your horse’s life, get together with your veterinarian to discuss the options. Your veterinarian will be well informed of the risks, associated diseases, and best strategies for you to protect your horse.

Where to start when determining a vaccination strategy

First, there are core vaccines…
Because the risks for certain infectious diseases are common to horses all over North America—and the consequences of these diseases so severe—the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) has defined four core vaccinations that veterinarians consider basic and essential for all horses. Core vaccines have demonstrated efficacy and safety, giving horses a high level of patient benefit and a low level of risk.

Horses on track at dawn with image of mosquito Eastern/Western Encephalomyelitis (EEE/WEE)

Equine Encephalomyelitis is a rare but often-fatal viral infection transmitted by mosquitoes to horses that can cause severe inflammation of the brain and spinal cord.

Get more information about Eastern/Western
Encephalomyelitis (EEE/WEE)
Horse peeking over fence with image of mosquito West Nile Virus (WNV)

West Nile Virus is the leading cause of encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) in North American horses. WNV is a potentially fatal viral infection transmitted by mosquitoes to horses.

Get more information about West Nile Virus (WNV)
Man, horse and dog in field with image of fox Rabies

Rabies is a fatal neurological disease resulting from the bite of an infected (rabid) animal. The transmitted virus migrates to the brain, causing encephalitis (swelling of the brain).

Get more information about rabies
Horse's leg beside metal fence with image of magnifying glass Tetanus

Tetanus, also known as “lockjaw,” is an often-fatal disease that occurs when a wound becomes infected with bacterial spores of Clostridium tetani.

Get more information about tetanus

Then there are risk-based vaccinations…

The AAEP also recognizes a second group of risk-based vaccinations that should be administered based on the risk your horse has of contracting a disease and the potential consequences.

Hand touching horse's nose
Influenza (EIV)

Equine Influenza (or flu) is a highly contagious, acute viral infection of the respiratory tract similar to the human flu.

Get more information about Influenza (EIV)
Horse's nose dripping clear fluids
Equine HerpesViruses 1 and 4 (EHV)

Equine HerpesVirus, or “rhino,” is a viral infection that can cause respiratory disease, neurological disease, and abortions.

Get more information about HerpesViruses 1 and 4 (EHV)
Horse and riders near pond with image of fly
Potomac Horse Fever (PHF)

Potomac Horse Fever is an acute bacterial infection caused by the microbe Neorickettsia risticii. Horses become infected by ingesting infected insects, which may reside in their water or feed.

Get more information about Potomac Horse Fever (PHF)
Horse's in temporary stalls with image of horse's nose
Strangles (Streptococcus equi)

Strangles is a highly contagious, bacterial upper-respiratory infection caused by the bacterium Streptococcus equi.

Get more information about Strangles
How often should I vaccinate my horse?

Once you and your veterinarian have determined the vaccines that are right for your horse, your veterinarian will develop a vaccination schedule that is best suited to you and your horse’s activities and environment.

Vaccination is one of the best and most cost-effective ways to prevent many infectious diseases in horses. Contact your veterinarian for more information and to develop a vaccination plan for your horse.

Find out more about Vetera®, Calvenza®, Potomavac, and Imrab® vaccines.