Keeping up to date with vaccinations is essential for preventing potentially lethal diseases in your horse. Vaccinations work by stimulating the immune response to increase antibodies against specific diseases in order to create protective immunity.
Following the initial course, which varies for different vaccines, boosters are required to maintain this immunity.
The diseases we most commonly vaccinate against are tetanus and equine influenza. Less commonly horses may also be vaccinated against equine herpes virus, equine arteritis virus, rotavirus and strangles.
Tetanus enters the horse via wounds and is not contagious. It causes extensive muscle spasm and has a very high mortality rate. The vaccination schedule involves an initial vaccine, a booster in one month, followed by a booster in one year. After this initial course boosters are required every second year.
Equine influenza causes respiratory disease associated with fever, lethargy, depression, nasal discharge and a harsh cough. Although it has a lower mortality rate than tetanus it has a very high morbidity rate and spreads rapidly as it is highly contagious. For this reason, all horses that partake in any form of competition are required to be vaccinated against equine influenza.
Many livery yards also require up to date ‘Flu’ vaccines. The vaccination schedule for equine influenza is an initial vaccination followed by a second vaccine 21-92 days late, a third vaccine 150-215 days after the second and annual vaccines following this. The annual vaccines must be within 365 days or a complete restart of the schedule will be required so make sure you know when your horse is due!
FEI rules vary from this schedule in that they require a booster every 6 months.
Medication reviews are another important element of equine care. Many chronic conditions require on-going medication. Examples of this are arthritis and Equine Cushings Disease, both of which may require lifelong treatment. In these situations, following initial assessment and diagnosis, six monthly medication reviews are required.
At these check-ups a clinical examination will be performed to assess that the horse is well in itself, free of any potential complications of the medication and that the correct dose is being administered. Over time medication requirements may change, as such it is important to continually reassess patients to ensure that the level of medication is appropriate.
If you have any questions regarding vaccinations or medication reviews please don’t hesitate to contact the clinic!
Article by Elise Parkinson BVSc MRCVS