Vaccinations are used as a method of protecting your horse from common diseases.
Horses and ponies in the UK are routinely vaccinated against equine influenza, tetanus and equine herpes viruses 1 and 4.
Vaccination requires an initial course followed by booster doses, the time between these doses depends on the vaccine and disease.
The following is only a basic guide and detailed information about the diseases or advice should be obtained from a vet.
Equine influenza is a highly contagious respiratory infection associated with coughing and a fever. This infection spreads rapidly between unvaccinated horses and, although not usually life threatening, can lead to affected animals being rested for several weeks.
Foals can begin their vaccinations when they are 4 – 6 months of age.
Equine influenza vaccination requires two injections 21 – 92 days apart, followed by a third injection 150 – 215 days after the second injection. Booster vaccinations are then given yearly after that (you must not exceed 365 days between injections). These are the rules of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) and British Riding Clubs (BRC) and what we generally recommend.
Horses competing under FEI rules require boosters every 6 months. In addition, horses cannot compete within 7 days of a vaccination.
There will be other organisations (such as British Eventing(BE)) which have different rules. It is up to the horse’s owner to check the relevant rule books and make sure that the horse’s vaccinations are up-to-date.
Making sure that the dates are adhered to is the responsibility of the owner. If any of the vaccinations are late, the horse will have to re-start the vaccination course to be up-to-date.
Tetanus occurs when a bacterium in the soil, Clostridium tetani, enters the animal via a wound and produces toxins. The foot is a common entry site. Tetanus infection is often fatal and is characterised by muscle stiffness, hyper-responsiveness to noise or touch and third eyelid prolapse.
The initial course is two vaccinations 4-6 weeks apart. A third vaccination is usually given 18 months later. Thereafter a booster every two years is required.
Brood mares should have a booster 4-6 weeks before foaling to provide the foal with some protection from birth. Foals can start their own vaccination course from 6 months of age.
Tetanus and influenza vaccinations are often given at the same time as most manufacturers produce a combination product. Horses will alternate each year between influenza vaccination on its own and the combination vaccine, enabling yearly flu boosters and every other year tetanus vaccination.
Equine herpes virus:
Equine herpes virus (EHV) can cause abortion, respiratory disease and occasionally neurological disease. Vaccination can guard against abortion and respiratory infection, however, cannot prevent neurological disease.
Brood mares should receive a vaccination during the 5th, 7th, and 9th months of pregnancy to help prevent abortion caused by herpes virus.
To protect against respiratory disease, horses receive two doses 4-6 weeks apart followed by a booster every 6 months. Vaccination can commence from 5 months of age.
Equine rotavirus causes diarrhoea in foals, particularly where lots of foals are kept together such as large studs.
Brood mares can receive a vaccination during the 8th, 9th, and 10th months of pregnancy to prevent infection in foals. This boosts the amount of antibodies to rotavirus that the mare produces in her milk. Whether this vaccination is necessary for your mare should be discussed with one of the veterinary surgeons at Chine House Veterinary Hospital.
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