There are many different vaccinations available for your horse and they form a very important part of your horse’s annual health program. We can advise you on the best vaccination program for your individual horse or pony depending what you do with it. These routine booster visits also provide us with the ideal opportunity to give your horse a routine MOT and discuss any concerns you may have. Once on our system, you should receive reminders when your horse’s vaccinations are due although it is ultimately your responsibility to ensure that your horse’s vaccinations are kept up to date.
The most commonly used vaccines in the UK are for equine flu (influenza) and tetanus (lockjaw) but there are several others which may be relevant for your horse:
Every horse and pony should be vaccinated against Tetanus. Tetanus is a disease that can affect any horse or pony at any time. It is contracted from contamination of wounds (even minor ones) with bacteria (Clostridium tetani) that live in the soil. The toxin produced by the bacteria produces painful muscle spasms eventually cause paralysis and death. Vaccination is a very simple and effective way to prevent this severe and often fatal disease.
After the initial course of 2 injections, booster doses are only required every two years. Foals are given an injection of tetanus anti-toxin at birth which gives short lived protection until the foals immune system is able to respond to a vaccine. Foals may then be vaccinated from 5-6 months of age. The vet may give your horse a tetanus anti toxin injection if it has a wound and is not vaccinated. This injection does not replace vaccination.
Flu (equine influenza):
Equine influenza is a highly infectious viral disease that affects the respiratory tract of horses causing a high temperature, cough and snotty nose. Equine influenza spreads very rapidly through unvaccinated populations of horses (1-3 day incubation) and may require long periods of rest for recovery. Due to the disease’s potential to severely disrupt all equine activities, most reasonably sized equine events will insist that all horses entered are vaccinated against flu. The benefit of this is that equine influenza has now become relatively uncommon.
The recommended primary course of vaccination is;
2nd vaccination 4-6 weeks after 1st
3rd vaccination 5-6 months after 2nd.
Booster vaccinations against flu are needed every year.
This is a highly contagious respiratory tract infection that spreads by direct contact between horses and ponies. It can also be spread via grooming kits, clothing, buckets, vermin and tack. The disease is fairly common and appears to be increasing in prevalence in the UK. Infected horses normally have a high temperature, a purulent nasal discharge and swollen lymph nodes in their head and neck. Unlike flu and herpes, strangles is a bacterial infection and can be treated with antibiotics. In rare cases, lymph nodes throughout the body can become abscessed. This is called ‘bastard strangles’ and can be difficult to treat.
A vaccine is now available to help prevent strangles: Horses from 4 months of age onwards receive two vaccinations of one dose with a 4 week interval.
Revaccination is carried out every three months to maintain immunity.
Equine Herpes Virus (1 & 4):
In horses, herpes infection can cause one of three types of disease. The commonest effect of herpes is an unwell horse or pony that has a moderate fever and a runny nose (and possibly a cough). Most horses and ponies will recover from this without complication but, like flu it can result in your horse being unable to be exercised for several weeks. Very rarely, horses that are recovering from a herpes infection can develop the neurological form of the disease. Some horses can recover from the neurological form of the disease, but unfortunately some do not and have to be put down. The third form of the disease is abortion. Herpes infection in horses is quite common, vaccination is most effective at preventing the disease when all of the horses on an establishment are protected.
Vaccination is given as a primary course of two vaccinations, 4-6 weeks apart followed by a single dose every six months. Pregnant mares should be vaccinated with a single dose during each of the 5th, 7th and 9th months of pregnancy.
Rota virus causes diarrhoea in young foals and vaccination of pregnant mares during late pregnancy causes increased antibodies to be produced in the mare’s colostrum (first milk). These antibodies provide increased protection to the foal as long as it drinks the colostrum.
Pregnant mares should be given three doses of vaccine consisting of a single dose administered at the 8th, 9th and 10th month of each pregnancy.