What you need to know to properly protect against disease

Why Vaccinate?

Vaccination is one of the best and most cost-effective ways to prevent many infectious diseases in horses. While there is a cost associated with vaccination, focusing on preventive care is much more cost effective than treating a disease.

The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) recommends all horses be vaccinated against West Nile virus, Eastern and Western sleeping sickness, tetanus and rabies. These are known as “core vaccines.”

Core vaccines

  • West Nile virus
  • Sleeping sickness (Western and Eastern)
  • Tetanus
  • Rabies

Risk-based vaccines

  • Influenza
  • Herpes (Rhinopneumonitis)
  • Strangles
  • Potomac horse fever
  • Equine rhinitis A virus*
Consult your veterinarian to determine if your horse should receive vaccines for any of these risk-based diseases. Horses that are commingled with other horses and those that travel are most likely to need some level of risk-based protection. Your veterinarian may recommend other vaccinations as well, based on risk factors.

Vaccine Effectiveness and Safety

Following years of research and development for a vaccine, it is then tested in large numbers of horses to meet USDA safety requirements. This process means you can be assured that, given normal parameters and proper vaccine usage, your horse will be protected.

Effectiveness factors

Several factors can diminish a vaccine’s ability to protect your horse, including:

  • A compromised immune system, potentially due to stress
  • Exposure to the targeted disease prior to vaccination
  • An overwhelming challenge by an infectious agent
  • Improper handling and storage of the vaccine

Managing these factors is key to ensuring the vaccine is as effective as it is could be. Your veterinarian will perform an examination prior to vaccination to ensure your horse is healthy, and therefore will likely respond well to vaccination. Having a veterinarian administer the vaccination helps ensure proper handling and storage of the vaccine to maximize effectiveness.

Vaccine types

There are primarily two types of equine vaccines:

1) Modified-live vaccines: These vaccines contain a modified-live microbe.
2) Inactivated vaccines: The disease-causing microbes in these vaccines have been killed prior to making the vaccine. Once killed, the microbes cannot revert back to their disease causing state.

Most equine vaccines are inactivated.

Post Vaccination

Vaccine reactions

Since vaccines stimulate an immune response, it is not uncommon for some horses to experience mild and transient side effects shortly after vaccination. These side effects may include:

  • Low-grade fever
  • Decreased appetite
  • Fatigue or decreased energy
  • Tenderness atthe injection site

Side effects should dissipate within approximately 24 hours of vaccination. If signs persist, consult your veterinarian. Additionally, contact your veterinarian immediately should your horse experience hives, difficulty breathing or colic shortly after vaccination, as it could indicate a more serious vaccine reaction.

Minimizing reactions

Vaccine manufacturers utilize various processes to filter the vaccine during manufacturing. Ultrafil® Purification Technology, used in Vetera® vaccines, is a unique filtration process that eliminates most of the extraneous, unnecessary proteins and/or cellular debris from the vaccines. This helps minimize adverse reactions.

Horse Care

To make your horse more comfortable after vaccination, take the following steps:

  • Walk your horse or allow free-choice exercise for approximately 20—30 minutes following vaccination. This increases blood flow to the muscles to help reduce stiffness.
  • Minimize strenuous activities for two to three days following vaccination. This allows time for a good immune response and for typical vaccine reactions to dissipate.
  • If your horse experiences mild tenderness at the injection site, use a topical hydro- or cold therapy.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories may be used to make your horse more comfortable if necessary. Consult your veterinarian prior to use.

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