Vaccines save lives. Just like in humans, vaccines strengthen the equine immune system and prepare the antibodies to fight against common but serious diseases. Since horses are big and strong animals, we expect them to be resistant to some different diseases, but influenza, botulism and Potomac horse fever often pose a significant health risk to all horses.
Horses need vaccination just as much as any human being. All the horses, including the majestic Thoroughbreds you see on TVG schedules, are vaccinated. If your horses have not received any vaccination and have been leading a healthy life among other vaccinated equine friends, it is a contribution of herd immunity. It has nothing to do with the vitality of necessary vaccines.
Here are some of the vaccines your horse will need throughout his or her lifetime.
- Tetanus toxoid: tetanus is a very common possibility for all horses and fouls. Performance horses usually get annual shots of the toxoid for protection against equine tetanus, which is a lethal disease.
- Equine encephalomyelitis: eastern, western and Venezuelan: these are three strains of the virus that causes encephalomyelitis in horses, and your horses need antibodies against all 3 of them. Yearlings, performance horses and pleasure horses usually get annual and spring shots for protection.
- Influenza: it is such a common disease for all animals, yet the virulence of the strains makes it lethal. Horses usually receive annual shots with booster doses before a probable exposure.
- Rhinopneumonitis: this disease is a result of the Equine Herpesvirus strains 1 and 4. The vaccines reduce the severity of the symptoms including spontaneous abortion, blockage of the respiratory tract and difficulty in breathing. It can lead to the death of young foals that have not received their vaccines.
- West Nile Virus: this is an annual booster that protects horses from the debilitating effects of WNV including ataxia, fever, impaired vision, and paralysis, difficulty in swallowing, convulsions, coma, and death. West Nile Virus can spread from bites of infected mosquitoes. Hence it is more common than most owners assume it to be.
- Strangles and Potomac Horse Fever: these are exclusively equine infections. Horses need semi-annual vaccines for optimal protection.
- Equine Viral Arteritis: annual vaccination necessary for colts, adult performance horses, and domestic horses. EVA can cause respiratory difficulties and reproductive difficulties in horses.
- Botulism: the vaccination schedules can vary depending on region, breed and some other factors. Consult your vet before getting your horse vaccinated.
- Rabies: it is not as common among horses, mainly due to herd immunity. However, always talk to your vet before making a decision.
- Rotavirus A: this vaccination is not as necessary. Therefore most horses do not need Rotavirus A vaccines.
A very common misconception is that domestic and racehorses do not need vaccines since wild horses do not undergo vaccination and they seem just as healthy. The reality is – we do not get to see the sick wild horses since any kind of viral, bacterial or protozoa infection in wild horses can be lethal. They cannot run about with the healthy ones, and the healthy ones often shun sick individuals from their herd in fear of contamination.