Monday, April 16, 2018
Infectious diseases are the main cause of equine sickness and mortality, and as the owner, you play an important role in preventing these diseases from infecting your horse. At United Vet Equine, vaccination is one of the many important tools we provide our customers to help reduce the number of diseases that spread in the horse industry, and more importantly, to your horse.
Core Vaccine Recommendations
1 | West Nile Virus Vaccine
The West Nile Virus became a major issue in the horse industry when the first case was reported on the East Coast in 1999. In the following years, the virus spread west, killing many horses, birds, and even people along the way. But how is West Nile spread? Through mosquitoes that have fed on infected hosts. Since the development of the vaccine, the infection has become less common, but it’s still considered an endemic, meaning it’s established itself permanently in the U.S.
Recommendation: Adult horses previously vaccinated should be vaccinated annually in the spring, prior to the onset of the insect vector season.
For animals at high risk or with limited immunity, more frequent vaccination or appropriately timed revaccination is recommended in order to induce protective immunity during periods of likely exposure. For instance, juvenile horses (15 years of age) have been demonstrated to have enhanced susceptibility to WNV disease. Therefore, more frequent vaccination may be recommended to meet the vaccination needs of these horses.
Booster vaccinations are warranted according to local disease or exposure risk. However, more frequent vaccination may be indicated with any of these products depending on risk assessment.
2 | Influenza Vaccine
The Equine Influenza (flu) virus is more common with horses than one might think. Just like in humans, the most visible signs of infection are high fever, cough, and nasal discharge. The Equine flu is highly contagious, therefore if the virus is suspected in your horse, keep him/her in a quarantined space until proper medications have been administered and your horse shows signs of improvement.
Recommendation: Similarly to the human flu vaccine, the most difficult part for scientists when making this vaccine is predicting which strain will be the most active that particular year. It’s recommended you give your horse the flu vaccine at least twice a year for at-risk horses.
3 | EHV-1
Otherwise known as Equine herpesvirus, EHV is common in horses all over the world. Many horses who have been exposed see no serious side effects in their lifetimes. However, if your horse has been exposed to the similar virus EHV-1, neurological issues, respiratory diseases, abortions, and neonatal deaths can occur. EHV-1 can spread from horse to horse via nasal secretions.
Recommendation: Talk with your veterinarian about administering this vaccination. Though there is no evidence that the EHV-1 vaccination prevents a horse from contracting the virus, however it can reduce the amount of coughing in horses (which spreads the disease), as well as helps with a mare’s natal health.
4 | Equine Encephalomyelitis (Eastern and Western strains)
Eastern and Western Equine Encephalomyelitis (EEE) & (WEE) can cause severe neurological issues and even fatalities in horses who have been exposed. This disease can be spread from birds and rodents to horses via mosquitoes, ticks, and other blood-sucking insects.
Recommendation: The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) recomments different vaccination procedures for different horses.
Adult horses who have never been vaccinated for EEE/WEE should receive a series of two doses, with a 4-6 week interval between each dose. Pregnant mares who also have never been vaccinated for EEE/WEE should receive two doses, with a 4-week interval between each dose. They should receive another booster 4-6 weeks before foaling. Foals of unvaccinated mares should receive three doses with a 4-week interval between the first and second dose, then a 8-week interval between the second and third dose. For a better understanding of these vaccination requirements, talk to your horse’s veterinarian.
5 | Rabies Vaccine
You probably heard of rabies outbreaks years ago because the disease is much less common today. This is thanks to the creation of the rabies vaccine. Though it’s rare, the disease is still fatal to horses if it’s transmitted through the bite of an infected animal. Commonly infected animals in the U.S. are bats, raccoons, skunks, possums, and foxes.
Recommendation: Because this is a core vaccine listed by the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP), we recommend you vaccinate your horse once a year.
Being aware of the most dangerous infectious diseases to a horse is the first step in taking preventive measures. Though the diseases listed above are all known to be dangerous to horses, they aren’t the only ones. Talk to your veterinarian about other important vaccines necessary for your region. And if you’re unsure of what age is best to start vaccinating a young horse, talk with your veterinarian. Each vaccine requires a horse to be a specific age.