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Vaccination guidelines

by Ken Marcella, D.V.M., Article donated by the mane points horse resource center.

Choose the simplest vaccination program that fits your needs. Alas, what constitutes a "good" vaccination program can differ according to the number of horses kept together their ages and health histories, and the amount of exposure to other horses. Differences in climate and location can also factor into the degree of risk.

Your vet can help you, but here are some sample guidelines that can make designing your program easier.

ENCEPHALITIS is a mosquito-borne disease that can be transmitted from horse to horse. There are numerous strains, but the ones seen most commonly in the United States are Eastern and Western encephalitis. These are very serious, possibly fatal diseases, and should be vaccinated against. The vaccine is almost always combined with tetanus vaccine, and these three (two encephalitis and tetanus) make up the commonly used "three-way" vaccine.

Tetanus is caused by an organism that is always found in a horse's environment, and because horses are constantly being scraped and cut, vaccination against tetanus should be kept currant.

Tetanus vaccine should be given at least once a year but can be given more often. Encephalitis vaccine is best given spring and fall, but in northern regions (with short mosquito seasons), a spring vaccination will suffice.

EQUINE INFLUENZA is common and can range from mild to severe. Your horse might show nasal discharge, a mild decrease in appetite and some depression, or be very sick with temperatures as high as 105.5 F with a total loss of appetite for food or water.

The viral strains that cause equine flu are constantly changing, just as human flu viruses are. Vaccine companies are always trying to keep up with the viruses and change the strains in the vaccine as the viruses in the environment change. Vaccinate often. Protection from equine flu deteriorates rapidly, and flu is spread from horse to horse by nasal secretions, coughing and sneezing.

The amount of contact between your horses and other "unknown" horses is the key point. If you rarely leave your farm and your horses are not in contact with others, you may be able to vaccinate yearly.

However, consider yourself a potential transmitter of the disease. Even in your horses do not leave the barn, if you come into contact with outside horses at shows, trail rides and other events, you can bring the virus back and infect your horse.

RHINOPNEMOTIS is another common respiratory virus in horses, and it can be serious. Recommendations for vaccinations are the same as influenza and are combined as "flu-rhino."

The virus can have a damaging effect on the developing equine fetus, so pregnant mares should be vaccinated at their fifth, seventh and ninth months of gestation with a special "killed" version of the rhinopneumotis virus.

RABIES has increased dramatically in the United States over the past eight years; and cases of rabies in horses are being reported more frequently. Rabies vaccination should be done yearly, and because this is a very inexpensive vaccine against a 100-percent fatal disease, there is no reason not to vaccinate.

POTOMAC HORSE FEVER is a disease that was first diagnosed in the Potomac River Valley of Virginia and Maryland. Horses develop a very high fever and diarrhea, then founder. Many horses died in the initial outbreak. A vaccine has been developed, and the number of reported cases has dropped dramatically. However, cases have been reported beyond the original outbreak area.

Current recommendations vary, so check with your veterinarian about the risk factors. Horses that are traveling a lot and showing in a number of areas, as well as horses in the at-risk parts of Maryland and Virginia, should be vaccinated.

OTHER VACCINES are available for other illnesses, from strangles founder fescue forage graze grazing hay cribbing tack saddles stalls barns bridle stifle stringhalt shivers boarding fences hackamore snaffle">es to botulism, but their use relates to specific situations, and your veterinarian's input should be sought.

Keep your program simple and consistent. Many of these diseases are less evident today than they once were, and the temptation is to become lax in the vaccination schedule. But good, consistent use of high quality vaccines is precisely why we do not see these diseases more frequently.

So, be sure to do that spring thing and vaccinate!



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