Vaccinations are just as important for a horse that stays close to home as they are for one that travels extensively. Vaccines minimize the risk of spreading disease for all horses. Consult with Dr Hodge or Dr Kleider about which vaccines make the most sense for your horse given the particulars of age, activity level and general health status. Every year, virus strains change and diseases with insect vectors change their demographics. Vaccine companies have to work hard to predict which virus strains we will need to protect against. It is important for our doctors to stay up to date with this information and provide you with the best options.
Vaccines are often referred to as a 4-Way or 5-Way. This just refers to the components of the vaccine and the viruses that they provide protection against. The following are the diseases most commonly vaccinated against in our area.
Tetanus: Of all the animal species the horse is the most susceptible to contracting tetanus also known as "Lock Jaw". The disease which is nearly always fatal is caused by Clostridium tetani, anaerobic bacteria present in most soil. It is transmitted to the horse through wounds such as puncture wounds or lacerations sometimes so innocuous that the wound itself goes unnoticed. Prevention by vaccination remains the best treatment. Because of the high level of risk to your horse, it is standard protocol for Dr Kleider or Dr Hodge to provide a booster vaccine for all horses receiving wound treatment or surgery.
Flu/Rhino: This vaccine is used as an aid in reduction of respiratory disease caused by equine influenza virus; types A2 North American and A2 Eurasian and the equine herpes virus also know as rhinopneumanitis; type 1 (EHV-1) and type 4 (EHV-4). These viruses can cause fever, lethargy, nasal discharge and cough. They are considered highly contagious and are spread from horse to horse through direct contact, communal feed or water sources and mechanical transmission of the virus on clothing or equipment carried by people. For this reason many horse show associations and horse sport governing bodies such as the CEF, USEF and the FEI require vaccination every 6 months for horses wishing to compete in a sanctioned event.
West Nile: So far West Nile is not prevalent in the lower mainland, but cases have been found in other areas of BC, Alberta and Washington State. West Nile is a blood borne disease spread by mosquitoes. It is also transmissable to humans. The possibility of its spread and the fact that it frequently results in fatality for the horse are the reasons we strongly recommend vaccination for all horses.
Strangles: This is a contagious upper respiratory tract infection caused by Streptococcus equi. Horses of all ages are susceptible but the disease is most common in young horses under the age of 5. We have had inconsistency with the efficacy of this vaccine and find it is only an aid in prevention. Isolation or quarantine is still the best protection for your horse when there is an outbreak. If vaccinating, we recommend horses be boosted before going into a high risk situation such as a farm or area that has had previous cases. The present vaccine is administered intra-nasally.
For further reading: AAEP’s Vaccination Guidelines