19th May 2019

Why Should I Vaccinate?

This article aims to discuss the purpose of vaccination and the diseases we routinely vaccinate against.

We recommend that all horses are vaccinated against Tetanus. This disease is highly fatal, with the small proportion of horses who survive often requiring a lot of supportive care and a long period of time to recover. It is found in the environment and enters the horse’s body through breaks in the skin, such as wounds. For this reason, every horse is at risk and therefore should be vaccinated.

Signs of tetanus include muscle soreness, reduced appetite or an inability to eat (“lock jaw”), raised temperature, an altered stance, seizures and death. By the time signs are seen, it is often too late. An anti-toxin injection exists which can be used if an unvaccinated horse is injured, however this injection is expensive and vaccinated horses are at lesser risk. This mostly fatal disease is certainly one for which prevention is better than attempted cure.  

Equine Influenza, or “Flu”, is the second disease we routinely vaccinate against. For some horses, where they do not travel and live in remote areas, the risk of flu may be low, however for the majority of horses vaccination is recommended. Flu is an airborne virus and in good conditions can travel as far as 5km! In addition, it can be spread by direct contact with other horses and by contact with people and objects, such as tack, feed equipment and stable toys. Thankfully in this highly infectious disease, serious illness and death are rare, however flu can spread rapidly through a yard, causing lost days of work/competition and therefore can have huge financial implications.

Horses usually incubate the infection for up to 3 days and then signs can include fever, coughing, discharge from the nose, lethargy and reduced appetite. Supportive treatment can be given but there is no specific treatment for flu. Rest is important to prevent complications (such as pneumonia) and up to 6 weeks of rest has been recommended.

The benefit of vaccination is that horses show mild or no symptoms when they come in contact with flu, whereas unvaccinated horses often show more marked signs and take longer to recover. In addition, the benefit of vaccinating horses is that it limits the spread of infection. Vaccination is recommended for most horses but is vital for those competing (be aware, required regimes can vary), travelling, kept on the same yard as those who travel/compete or kept where other horses visit. Remember that disease can travel in the air and via people/equipment, so the more people visiting the yard or the closer the yard is to other horses, the higher the risk.

Other diseases we can source vaccines for are Equine Herpes and Strangles. Whilst these are not core vaccinations, they can be recommended in some situations. Please contact us at the surgery if you would like more information about vaccinations or have any questions.