While nursing, horses receive antibodies and nutrients from their mother’s milk. When nursing stops, horses become more susceptible to illnesses because their immune systems do not have the same support they once did. As part of a preventive care routine, equine vaccinations can help protect your horse from life-threatening diseases.
For most horses, routine vaccinations start around the age of 6 to 8 months old and continue regularly throughout adulthood. Some vaccinations are even combined into a single syringe so a horse experiences fewer injections. After being vaccinated, most young horses take about 5 days to build protective antibodies with complete protection taking place after 14 days. Some vaccines require multiple dosages given over a short period of time, and most require booster shots every 6 months to 1 years. Horses who have been vaccinated have an advantage over those who have not. When a disease is detected, your vaccinated horse's immune system quickly responds, decreasing severity of the illness or preventing it altogether. While it is rare, some horses do not develop immunity from their vaccinations and still become ill. If your horse has been vaccinated, is current on all of their booster shots, and has never shown signs of illness or disease, it has likely been successfully vaccinated.
Horse owners should note that vaccinations are preventive, not curative. A vaccination may prevent or lessen the severity of an illness, but if your horse is already suffering from a disease, a vaccine will not cure them.
Core and Non-Core Equine Vaccinations
There are several equine vaccinations that are necessary for all horses and others that are recommended only under special circumstances. Core vaccinations are those that are commonly recommended for all horses, and non-core vaccinations include those that are only administered to horses considered to be “at-risk.” Necessary vaccines depend on local regulations, geographic location, and your horse’s lifestyle. Your horse will be vaccinated according to their risk of exposure and your veterinarian will discuss the best options for your horse.Typically, we recommend Western Equine Encephalitis, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, West Nile, tetanus toxoid, influenza, rhinopneumonitis (equine herpes virus-1 and -4), and rabies. Strangles and other vaccines are given on risk-based recommendations.
Equine Vaccination Concerns
Similar to human vaccinations, equine vaccinations do carry a risk of side-effects. While negative side-effects do exist, it is important to note that your horse is statistically more likely to develop a life-threatening illness when not vaccinated, than to suffer adverse results from a vaccination. None-the-less, it is important to remain informed so you can ask your veterinarian the appropriate questions at your horse’s appointment.
After being vaccinated, the injection site can be swollen or sore. Some horses also have a reduced appetite, fever, and experience lethargy. These side-effects should diminish over the next 24 to 48 hours. If you notice your horse’s side-effects are not subsiding, please contact our office. Very rarely, horses develop an allergy to a vaccine. Allergies can be detected within minutes of receiving a vaccination and if left untreated, can result in death. If you witness any of the following, contact our office immediately: sweating, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, itching, or swelling of the legs or face.
Bats are the source of rabies in Southern California. We recommend annual rabies vaccines for all of our horses. Los Angeles County keeps a website record of where rabid bats are found by humans. Be sure to search online for "rabid bats Los Angeles County 2021". This will direct you to the Los Angeles County Health Department website giving the latest information on the number of rabid bats found in Los Angeles County neighborhoods. Vaccination laws vary from state to state, so if you plan on moving, be sure to check necessary requirements to ensure a smooth transition for your family.
If you have any questions about vaccinations or scheduling new horse vaccinations, you may contact our office at your convenience.