Routine Vaccination / Core Vaccines
There are five "core vaccines" which are recommended for all horses over the age of 6 months. These vaccines protect against diseases which are easily transmissible to any horse, regardless of their environment or whether they travel. Core vaccines are:
- EEE/WEE (Eastern and Western Equine Encephalitis
- West Nile Virus
EEE, WEE and West Nile Virus are transmitted via mosquitoes. These diseases cause neurologic dysfunction, and survival requires intensive medical care. EEE is the most common equine mosquito-transmitted disease in North Carolina, and it is the most deadly. Horses are extremely susceptible to infection with tetanus, which is spread via bacterial spores in the environment. Horses suffering from tetanus require aggressive medical treatment and rarely survive. Rabies is transmitted to horses through bite wounds from an infected animal, and the disease is uniformly fatal.
Horses should be evaluated individually to determine their risk status for other diseases prevented through vaccination. Risk-based vaccines include Equine Herpesvirus ("rhino"), Influenza, Equine Viral Arteritis, Potomac Horse Fever, Equine Rhinitis Virus, Strangles, Botulism, and others. In our area, commonly administered risk-based vaccines are Equine Herpesvirus and Influenza. These vaccines may be recommended depending on the age and travel habits of your horse or its stablemates. Other vaccines may be recommended based on individual factors.
Our Vaccine Philosophy
Much has been said and written lately, both on the internet and in print magazines, regarding the unnecessary administration of vaccines to horses. We stand firm in our belief that vaccines are an integral and life-saving aspect of every horse's health management plan. Scientific studies have often shown that vaccines in horses do not provide protection for longer than the recommended vaccination intervals. We've personally seen cases of deadly, preventable diseases in horses that have only gone somewhat over the recommended length between vaccine boosters.
Titer studies of horses have shown wide variation in immune response to vaccination between individual animals. A titer may give you an idea of whether your horse mounts a strong, moderate, or weak response to a vaccine, but we don't have any information on exactly what titer level protects from disease. This is currently a big limitation in interpreting titers, and is the reason we don't recommend titers in the place of vaccination.
Why Have a Vet Vaccinate My Horse?
Many horse owners choose to vaccinate their horses with products purchased online or through a feed store. You will commonly hear the argument "but you don't know how those vaccines are handled" as a reason for you to have your veterinarian administer vaccines. That's a good point, and the internet is awash in stories of vaccine coolers left on the loading dock for an entire summer day before the contents were stocked in the fridge, but there are some even more important factors to discuss here! I'd like to tell you why you should spend a little more to have ME vaccinate your horse:
Vaccine Exams: I examine every horse, free of charge, at the time of vaccination. This includes cardiac auscultation (listening to the heart), evaluation of the gums and incisors, listening for sand accumulation in the colon, taking rectal temperature, and evaluation of respiratory rate. Every single year, I identify a few heart murmurs, a few horses with sand in their colon, a horse or two with a fever, some periodontal disease or lip ulcers, and occasionally a possible early case of heaves (seen during spring months). These exams can make a huge difference in early treatment of a medical condition, and can save you money and time in the long run.
Recall and Reaction Monitoring: When you purchase your vaccine from a feed store, you are not likely to receive notification of a recall. While these do not happen often, they do occur. Feed store or online store vaccines are often purchased from a distributor or manufacturer, through a third-party veterinarian. The vaccine is then sold to you with no record of your purchase of a particular serial-numbered product. Even if you keep the sticker from the package, you will not receive notification of a recall. When the vaccine is administered by our clinic the serial number is entered into the computerized medical record, and if a recall is received, your horse will be identified and you will be contacted.
Reduced Reaction Rates: Certain vaccine brands are more frequently associated with local site and general health reactions. Foundation Equine is committed to the purchase of only vaccines with low reaction-rates. Should your horse experience a reaction (neck swelling, fever, colic, depressed attitude), it is noted in the medical record and a different vaccine type will be purchased specifically for him during the next vaccine season.
Vaccine Manufacturer Guarantee: Did you know that if your horse falls ill with symptoms of a disease that a vaccine is intended to prevent, that the manufacturing company will pay for the diagnostics and treatment? Yep, it's like an insurance policy! If your horse was vaccinated against flu/rhino, but starts coughing, dripping nasal discharge or has a fever, we can test for many different respiratory diseases FREE OF CHARGE to you! This guarantee also applies to situations in which your horse experiences a vaccine reaction. Though this is rare, if we need to see your horse for complications after vaccination (he or she isn't feeling well or has local swelling at the injection site), the manufacturer will often cover your bill. Guess what though? This doesn't work if your horse's vaccine wasn't administered by a vet!
USEF competition: The USEF now requires documentation of flu/rhino vaccination for any horse on the show grounds of a rated show (even if the horse isn't competing). If your horse is vaccinated by a veterinarian, you simply show the vaccination certificate issued by the vet, and you're good to go! If you vaccinated yourself, you will need to present the signed receipt from your purchase, the serial number and expiration date of the vaccine, and the date of vaccine administration. Better hope you don't lose that receipt! When your horse is vaccinated by our clinic, we email a digital vaccine certificate that you can store on your computer or phone for instant access any time! Lost the certificate? If you call our office we'll have you another one emailed in a matter of minutes.