Understanding Equine vaccination with Pilgrims Vets

Understanding Equine Vaccination

Our equine vets are often asked ‘What vaccinations will my horse need?

Pilgrims Veterinary Practice recommends that all horses, ponies and donkeys are regularly vaccinated to prevent some serious and potentially life-threatening, diseases. Those most commonly vaccinated for are equine influenza, tetanus, rotavirus and equine herpes virus (EHV).

Equine Influenza (Flu)

Influenza is a viral infection which most commonly affects young horses. The virus affects the respiratory system resulting in a high fever, runny nose and coughing. Though rarely fatal, it can be a very debilitating disease.

To provide effective immunity against influenza your horse should be given an initial primary course of 3 vaccinations.

·1st vaccination: Can be given to any horse over the age of 5 months.

·2nd vaccination: To be given 4-6 weeks after the 1st vaccination.

·3rd vaccination: To be given 5-7 months after the second vaccination.

Thereafter subsequent vaccinations can be given annually. Flu vaccination is usually given as a combination vaccine with tetanus.

Many sporting governing bodies, including HRA and FEI, have strict rules that dictate that a horse must be vaccinated against influenza in order to compete in competitions held under their rules. Any of our vets will be happy to check your horse’s vaccination record before competition. Please be aware that a lapse in the vaccination history (even by a few days, years before) will be considered as a breach of the regulations and may result in your horse being unable to compete or fines being imposed.

Tetanus

All horses and donkeys should be vaccinated against tetanus. Tetanus is usually a fatal condition in the horse with 90% of unvaccinated horses not surviving. A tetanus infection can occur through any open wound. The incubation period is between 7 and 21 days, so the wound through which the infection was contracted is often healed before any symptoms begin to show.

Foals will receive antibodies from their mother’s colostrum and milk that will protect them for the first few weeks of life. Many foals are given tetanus anti-toxin shortly after birth as extra protection.

If your horse has not been vaccinated or your vaccination programme has lapsed and it sustains a wound it is essential that a tetanus anti-toxin injection is given as soon as possible to prevent tetanus infection. This is not the same as a vaccination but will protect your horse against tetanus for approximately 3 weeks.

To provide effective immunity against tetanus your horse should be given an initial primary course of 2 vaccinations.

·1st vaccination: Can be given to any horse over the age of 5 months.

·2nd vaccination: To be given 4-6 weeks after the 1st vaccination.

·A booster for pregnant mares one month before their due date.

Thereafter subsequent vaccinations can be given at 2 yearly intervals. Tetanus vaccination is often given as a combination vaccine with equine flu.

Equine Herpes Virus (EHV)

The two most common types of EHV are EHV-1, which causes respiratory disease in young horses, abortion in pregnant mares and paralysis in horses of all ages and types, and EHV-4, which usually only causes low-grade respiratory disease but can occasionally cause abortion. Following first infection the majority of horses carry the virus as a latent infection that can reactivate at intervals throughout life.

To provide effective immunity against respiratory and neurological disease caused by EHV-1 and EHV- 4 a primary course of 2 vaccinations should be given followed by a booster vaccination every 6 months.

·1st vaccination: Can be given to any horse over the age of 5 months.

·2nd vaccination: To be given 4-6 weeks after the 1st vaccination.

·6 month booster: To be given within 6 calendar months of the 2nd vaccination.

To provide effective immunity against abortion caused by EHV-1 and EHV-4 a course of three vaccinations should be given to a mare during her 5th, 7th and 9th months of pregnancy.

Rotavirus

As a highly contagious disease, the equine rotavirus is thought to infect around fifty per cent of foals if and when the disease is present in their area. Upon entering the digestive system, the rotavirus replicates and thus damages the lining of the intestines. It is young foals under the age of six months that are more susceptible to contracting the equine rotavirus especially if the mother has not been vaccinated.

To provide effective immunity against rotavirus a course of three vaccinations should be given to a mare during her 8th, 9th and 10th months of pregnancy.

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