Vaccination is essential to the health of your horse or pony and is recorded in your horses passport
What diseases do we vaccinate against?
Tetanus is an extremely nasty neurological disease, caused by the bacterium Clostridium tetani, which is found in soil. Any break in the skin, no matter how minor or seemingly insignificant can let the bacteria into the horse’s body. This bacteria produces a toxin that causes spastic paralysis – this means that the horse’s muscles become permanently contracted (hence the name “Lockjaw” in humans). The horse is uniquely susceptible to tetanus amongst mammals, and so we protect them with vaccination.
There is also a form of this called Occult Tetanus which occurs without any external wound. It is thought that this occurs through minor wounds in the gastro-intestinal tract that allow the tetanus bacteria, Clostridium tetani into the body.
Tetanus is a dreadful disease that most usually leads to a very distressing death. However, it is very easily and effectively vaccinated against producing a very strong and lasting immunity.
A course of tetanus vaccination requires two injections 4-6 weeks apart, followed by a booster one year later. After this, booster injections need only be given every 2 years.
Equine influenza is a viral disease that causes inflammation of the horse’s upper respiratory tract. This is often accompanied by depression, inappetance and a raised temperature. The infection is usually self-limiting, and will resolve with supportive treatment over the course of 7-10 days. However, infection can put your horse out of action for far longer – as a rough guide, any horse with a respiratory infection should have 1 week of rest for each day it had a temperature, meaning your horse could be out of action for several weeks. Although uncommon in healthy horses, influenza infection can also lead to a secondary bacterial infection, which can be much more difficult, time-consuming, and expensive to treat.
More serious disease caused by influenza also occurs in the young, the old, and ill horses, so it is essential that they are protected. Often, as a horse gets older and no longer goes to shows and events where vaccination is required, it is tempting to stop vaccinating against influenza. However, it is these animals that are most susceptible especially in cases that have Cushings Disease; therefore vaccination is key.
A Vaccination Program
|Interval (Jockey Club Rules)
|1st Influenza and Tetanus
|2nd Influenza and Tetanus
|4-6 Weeks (21-92 days)
|6 months (150-215 days)
|1st Annual Booster Influenza and Tetanus
|1st year (not more than 365 days)
|2nd Annual Booster Influenza
|2nd year (not more than 365 days)
After this yearly vaccinations alternate between influenza and tetanus, and just influenza. The exception to this rule is for horses competing under FEI rules, when an influenza vaccination must be given every 6 months.
Herpesvirus is a less common disease that we sometimes vaccinate horses against. It can cause upper respiratory infections, neurological problems and abortion. We commonly vaccinate pregnant mares against this disease to reduce the risk of abortion – they must be vaccinated at 5 months, 7 months and 9 months of pregnancy. All horses can be vaccinated to prevent them from contracting the respiratory or neurological forms of the disease, and this consists of a primary course, followed by boosters every 6 months.
Equine Viral Arteritis
Equine Viral Arteritis (EVA) is a sexually transmitted disease of horses, which can cause a range of clinical signs, including abortion. Some breeding animals must be tested to see if they have the disease before breeding. EVA is a notifiable disease, so if it is suspected the relevant authorities (DEFRA) must be informed. Vaccination is only carried out under rare circumstances.
The strangles vaccine that is available is given in a very novel and unusual way! It is injected into the top lip inside the mouth! Although this appears at first that it wouldn’t be tolerated very well, it surprisingly is!! It has helped to reduce the spread of strangles especially in younger horses.