As humans we’re constantly vaccinating ourselves against certain diseases. From the MMR jab given to us as a baby, which protects us against measles, mumps and rubella to flu jabs generally reserved for the over 65s and those working in high-risk environments.
Animals are no different to humans - there are plenty of vaccines available that protect them from potentially life-threatening diseases. The type and frequency of vaccines your horse needs will depend on their lifestyle. Does your horse live a closed herd lifestyle where he or she only comes into contact with other controlled horses, or do they live an open herd lifestyle travelling to shows and other events where they come into contact with lots of different horses?
Essential vaccinesThe two most common vaccines for horses protect against equine influenza and tetanus. Equine influenza is terribly contagious, so it’s vitally important your horse is vaccinated against it. An initial course of vaccinations involves two injections three months apart and a third injection six months after that. Annual booster injections ensure your horse is protected throughout its life, although open herd horses may need extra boosters as often as every four months.
Meanwhile, tetanus spores live in the soil and can easily enters tiny cuts that you won’t even notice on your horse. The spores release a potentially deadly toxin that affects the horse’s nervous system and can cause difficulty swallowing, seizures and respiratory problems if left untreated. To prevent these awful symptoms, a simple tetanus jab is required.
Other recommended vaccinesWhile your horse should at the very least be vaccinated again influenza and tetanus, there are other vaccinations you should seriously consider.
Equine herpes is a common virus amongst horses and can cause serious respiratory problems. Special vaccinations are available for pregnant horses that may be exposed to the highly contagious virus.
EVA or equine viral arteritis can cause pregnant mares to abort, be carried by breeding stallions and in some cases even kill young foals. While cases of EVA are uncommon, the numbers have been rising globally, and the infection can prove symptomless, making it a worthwhile vaccination.
Keeping your horse safeIt’s a good idea to discuss any concerns with your vet, who will have a good idea about which other vaccinations your horse should have. Remember, that prevention is often much better - and cheaper - than the cure, so it never hurts giving your horse as much protection as possible.
Also bear in mind that as with humans, vaccinations may cause slight side effects in horses - at the very least they’ll usually need a day or two of rest after their injections. Your vet will advise you about any potential side effects and how to care for your horse during this time.