Peace of Mind Comes with a Small Price

Peace of Mind Comes with a Small Price Photo

Protecting horses against common infectious diseases is a part of responsible horse ownership. The good news is that providing protection is a small investment and pays off with peace of mind.  

“Everyone knows horses are a significant investment of time, resources and emotional energy,” says John Tuttle, DVM, Director, Equine Professional Services, Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health. “But we all know how much joy horses bring to us, so they are well worth it! A small investment in your veterinarian’s recommended vaccine protocol can save potential heartache in the future,” he says. 

Ideally, vaccinations should be administered in the spring and depending on circumstance, such as risk of exposure, boostered in the fall. Here’s what to expect when the veterinarian comes for the appointment. 


Core vs. Risk-Based Vaccinations  


Your veterinarian will first do an overall health assessment. Then, they most likely adhere to The American Association of Equine Practitioners recommendations and will administer vaccinations to help protect against the following: 

Eastern & Western Equine Encephalomyelitis – EEE and WEE cause significant brain and spinal cord swelling. While vaccination has reduced the incidence of cases, vaccination is still considered a core recommendation, along with mosquito control, for all horses because of the high mortality rate associated with these two diseases.1 

Rabies – 100% fatal in horses, rabies can be protected against with the administration of a very cost-effective vaccine. Bats, raccoons, skunks and foxes, all animals whose habitats are similar to where barns are located, are the most common carriers.2  

Tetanus – Often fatal, tetanus is caused by Clostridium tetani, an organism found in the feces of horses and other animals, as well as in the soil where those animals are housed. Because spores of Cl. tetani can live for years, horses and people are always at risk for contracting tetanus through puncture wounds.3 

West Nile Virus – With 71 cases in 19 states in 20204, West Nile Virus still poses a threat to the equine population. Mortality occurs in approximately 33 percent of infected horses and up to 40 percent of those infected with WNV remain clinically affected up to six months after the original diagnosis.

In addition to vaccinating for these core diseases, your veterinarian will also evaluate your horse’s risk of exposure to other diseases such as Equine Influenza, Potomac Horse Fever and Strangles.  


Following Vaccination 


Typically, horses show minimal if any signs of discomfort following vaccination. However, some horses may experience low-grade fever, decreased appetite, fatigue or decreased energy and tenderness at the injection site. These are usually mild and pass quickly. However, if they worsen or linger over a period of days, contact your veterinarian.  

To help ensure your horse’s comfort following vaccination, take the following steps: 

  • Controlled exercise following vaccination to help reduce stiffness (after 24 hours) 

  • Minimize strenuous activity for a few days following vaccination to allow for the best immune response 

  • Topical hydro or cold therapy at the injection site if tenderness occurs 

As always, partner with your veterinarian for their recommendations, as their familiarity with your horse and its unique health history will help to optimize your horse’s vaccination experience.  


1Core Vaccination Guidelines. Eastern & Western Equine Encephalomyelitis. American Association of Equine Practitioners. 
2What animals get rabies? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
3Core Vaccination Guidelines. Tetanus. American Association of Equine Practitioners.
4United States Department of Agriculture. 2020 Summary of West Nile Virus Equine Cases in the United States.


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