Worried about what vaccinations your horse needs and when? The following guide will talk you through the process so you can keep your horse protected for life.
What vaccinations do horses need?
Tetanus (lock jaw)
All horses are at risk from this potentially fatal disease, and approximately 90% of unvaccinated horses who develop tetanus die. It’s caused by bacteria living in the ground, which enter your horse’s body through an injury such as a puncture wound. Symptoms include muscle spasms, usually seen first in your horse’s tail, legs and eventually his jaw.
Dosage: Two initial doses are followed by a third injection one year after the initial course, and subsequent ones are given every two years.
Equine Influenza (flu)
Equine flu can cause serious illness and permanent damage to your horse’s respiratory system. Risk of infection is increased where horses are kept together or gathered in one place such as competitions. Symptoms include a rise in temperature, a harsh, dry cough, clear nasal discharge that progresses to thick, green/yellow discharge and fatigue.
Dosage: Two initial injections need to be followed by another one six months later and then with annual boosters.
A highly contagious and infectious disease caused by the bacteria, Streptococcus equi. This upper respiratory infection occurs when bacteria infect lymph nodes in the horse’s throat causing inflammation and internal abscesses. Symptoms include a raised temperature, nasal discharge and difficulty swallowing. The bacteria can easily spread to other horses by direct contact, contaminated food, water, equipment or people’s hands/clothing and even through the air.
Dosage: Strangles vaccines require boosters every three months.
Breeding mares are at risk of the herpes virus, which causes respiratory problems, a raised temperature, coughing and nasal discharge. It can cause abortions in pregnant mares.
Dosage: An initial injection is given to brood mares followed by a booster every six months. Mares not used specifically for breeding (e.g. put into foal as a one off) should be vaccinated in the fifth, seventh and ninth months of their pregnancy to protect against abortion.
A vaccination against rotavirus, which causes diarrhoea and death in foals, is available as a preventative measure for breeding mares.
Dosage: Given to the in-foal mare monthly for the last three months of her pregnancy.
What to expect
How are vaccines given?
Your vet will vaccinate your horse with a quick and easy jab usually into the muscle in the side of his neck. Some horses find this upsetting in which case the chest or gluteal muscles might be used. The exception is the strangles vaccination, which is given into the inside of his upper lip.
Will there be side effects?
Your horse may be a little off colour for a couple of days following his vaccination or have swelling at the site of the jab, but this is nothing to worry about. To reduce the chance of a reaction caused by stress, your vet may recommend your horse avoids heavy exercise for 24-48 hours after the vaccination.
How much does it cost to vaccinate a horse?
Cost will vary from vet to vet and may be more expensive if your vet comes to you. There are sometimes special offers available at individual practices, so discuss your needs when you book.
Where do I go from here?
Speak to your local vet and ask for their advice. Every horse is different, so it’s vital to devise a programme, which gives the best protection to your horse.
However then it’s over to you to remember to keep the vaccinations up to date by keeping a record.
Missed a jab? If you miss a vaccination call your vet for advice on the best course of action.