It’s time to start thinking about your spring vaccinations. How do you decide what your horse needs?
There are lots of good noncommercial resources online - the AAEP (American Association of Equine Practitioners) website has good comprehensive charts, as does Equestrian Canada.
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Your best resource, however, is likely your regular or herd health veterinarian. Why? Because vaccinations, like nutrition and housing, are not a “one size fits all” decision. Your veterinarian can help you tailor vaccines to your horse’s level of exposure risk, immune status, and potential vaccine risks. For example, a travelling show horse or a young horse heading for training (the horse equivalent of elementary school i.e. the whole family is frequently sick!) will be at a much greater risk of contracting a contagious respiratory disease. Do you have senior horses at home? If they have PPID (“Equine Cushings”) or are in the early stages of the disease, they may be immune deficient, which puts them at greater risk of illness.
Expecting a foal(s) this year? Pregnant mares have their own vaccine schedule, and diligent attention to vaccination for in contact horses is also advisable. A reminder, if you show horses at the FEI level, or compete at Equestrian Canada recognized events, you will need proof of vaccination for Influenza and Rhinopneumonitis within 6 months of the competition.
Vaccination for “Core” diseases is recommended for all horses. Read more about core diseases here.
Another resource for deciding on which vaccines are advisable is through tracking disease outbreaks by subscribing to disease surveillance networks available including the Equine Disease Communications Center, and the Canadian Animal Health Surveillance System.
The internet is a powerful educational tool for horse owners, but beware. There is plenty of misinformation circulating about the supposed dangers of preventative vaccinations. Successful disease control on the national level is far more effective if we maintain strong herd immunity. A minority of horses have difficulty tolerating vaccines, and your veterinarian can assist you in making alternate choices for individual animals, such as intranasal administration, preventative use of anti-inflammatories, or dividing up vaccines for different diseases.
Using your veterinarian as a resource rather than just purchasing your vaccines is also a wise choice. In addition to proper vaccine administration and handling, they can answer herd health questions, and may recognize changes in your horse you hadn’t noticed. In addition, veterinary administered vaccines are usually supported by immunization guarantees provided by vaccine manufacturers. These guarantees will assist you with costs of infectious disease diagnosis and treatment, should your horse’s vaccine fail to provide protection.
Written by Bettina G Bobsien, BSA, DVM, Diplomate ABVP [Equine], email@example.com