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All About Vaccines

It may be vaccination time for your horse and this is a series that will give you important information about vaccinating your horse.

Tip 1.

Over vaccinating can do more harm than good.  Most vaccines last a minimum of 7 years, most last a lifetime.   So be aware that to continue to vaccinate your horse too frequently because you think that vaccines are innocuous (do no harm) is due to lack of good information. Many horses are vaccinated yearly (or more often) for diseases that they are never exposed to or already have immunity to. Remember these are toxins you are giving your horse and an accumulation can have adverse effects. Read on....

Tip 2.
People and veterinarians have been told that vaccine reactions occur within 48 hours after the vaccine is administered, many vaccination reactions are not attributed to the vaccine and they go unreported.  Some horses can have vaccine reactions that go unnoticed or may occur up to 30 days after the vaccination so the symptoms not seen as related.

Tip 3.
Administration of multiple vaccines at the same time may increase the risk of adverse reactions.  There is not efficacy data available with reference to concurrent use of multiple vaccines. Don’t just give a vaccine because it’s the easy way to feel safe. Your horse could be in danger. Remember mercury is banned for human vaccines but not for horses.

Tip 4.
As mentioned before reactions are not always predictable and are inherent risks of vaccination. Therefore, it is recommended that horses not be vaccinated in the 2 weeks prior to shows, performance events, sales or domestic shipment. Some veterinarians may choose not to vaccinate horses within 3 weeks of international shipment.

Tip 5.
Don’t take vaccination lightly. After receiving a vaccine(s) some horses experience local muscular swelling and soreness or transient, self-limiting signs including fever, anorexia and lethargy. Severe reactions at sites of injection can be particularly troublesome, requiring prolonged treatment and convalescence. Systemic adverse reactions (such as urticaria, purpura hemorrhagic or anaphylaxis) can also occur. 

Tips 6. 
Only vaccinate a healthy horse. This would seem to be obvious but the label insert for every vaccine warns against vaccinating horses that are unhealthy so it is worth mentioning.  There is a long list of ailments or skin irritations and eye problems that indicate you should not vaccine your horse during this time. What I think this means is that if your horse is not in top shape you may be putting the horse at risk because vaccination are hard on their systems.

Tip 7.
Most vaccination schedules were developed by the drug companies that manufacture the vaccines.  Veterinarians seldom want to go against regular western medical training and it is beneficial for them because they are also making a profit by administering the vaccines. Many veterinary clinics make up to 50% of their income by administering annual vaccinations.

Tip 8.
Some test their horses to see if they need a vaccine by using a titers test. This shows antibodies circulating in the blood stream (humoral liquid immunity) but does not show the cellular immunity. Humoral immunity is when the animal is exposed to a certain disease for the first time and it produces antibodies to that disease that will only last for a short while without any reoccurring exposure to that disease. At the same time the body produces the humoral immunity, it will produce cellular immunity.  Cellular immunity consists of a certain type of white blood cell that can differentiate into other cells when needed.  These cells, when stimulated by exposure to a pathogen (germ), can then make antibodies.  This type of immunity is almost always life-long.  Unfortunately, there is no way to measure cellular immunity.  Therefore, if you run a titer and the numbers are low, it is quite likely that your horse is still immune to that disease, but you have no way of knowing.

Tip 9.
If you hear there is an outbreak in your area go on the internet and search for the incidence on the website of your area veterinary board or Center for Disease Control.  Remember that just because a certain number of cases have been reported in your area, it doesn’t mean that those animals became sick or even needed to be treated.  Look at all of the information with an open mind and then make a decision based on common sense, not fear.  We may need to “read between the lines” some, to make the most informed decisions when it comes to the health of our beloved horses.

Tip 10.
One common sense vaccine protocol would be to treat our horses the way we did our children.  We were given three or four vaccines at certain strategically timed intervals and then we were covered, for life!  Foals are not born with the ability to mount a normal immune response until sometime after 6 months of age. This is why a mare will pass antibodies to the foal in the colostrums (first milk).  This is the only immunity that the foal possesses for the first half-year or so of life.  Because that foal can’t make its own antibodies, if you vaccinate it prior to 6 or 7 months you force the foal to use up the antibodies that were passed to it in the colostrum.  Adequate colostrum intake is essential.  If vaccines are administered to foals too early they interfere with colostral antibodies.

Tip 11.
Authorities believe that horses should be vaccinated for the first time one month after weaning (not before 7 months) because the foals’ immune system doesn’t mature enough to produce antibodies until after 6 months of age.  The second vaccination should be given 30-45 days after the first and the last vaccination one year after the second. 
One exception! And that is tetanus. Tetanus should be given at the same interval initially as above, but we feel that a horse should be given a dose of tetanus toxoid after each deep cut or puncture wound, only if it has been more than one year since the last tetanus vaccine.  Tetanus antibodies last 10 years in horses.  So, if you prefer to vaccinate routinely against tetanus then you should not do it any more often than once every 10 years.

Tip 12.
These vaccines contain mercury (Thimerosal™) as a preservative. 
West Nile
West Nile + Venezuelan 
Eastern or Western Encephalomyelitis + Tetanus
Equine Protozoal Encephalomyelitis
Rhino/Flu, Potomac Horse Fever
Western Encephalomyelitis + Tetanus
Equine Influenza
Equine Rotavirus
Clostridium Botulinum

Tip 13.
Types of Vaccines
Core Vaccines - those vaccines that can help to prevent diseases that could kill your horse, (should only be given when the disease is present in the area that your horse lives or travels to in a significantly prevalent level to justify risking the negative side effects that could be caused by the vaccine) They are: Rabies, Tetanus, Potomac Horse Fever - rarely fatal, but can cause laminitis, Eastern (EEE), Western (WEE) and Venezuelan Encephalomyelities (VEE) There were no cases of WEE and VEE reported in the US in 2009 and very few cases of EEE reported.  Note that the cases of EEE that were reported were in a very localized region of the country.

Tip 14.
Non-Core Vaccines - those vaccines that are given to try to prevent diseases that are only a nuisance to our horses, (it is not recommend these due to the fact that they will compromise the immune system). They are: Rhinopneumoniti, Influenza, Strangles, Pneumobort K.

Tip 15.
Not Yet Proven Vaccines - these diseases are rarely fatal. Because they result in immune compromise, they can predispose your horse to the disease that you are trying to prevent.  (vaccines that authorities believe should never be given.)  They are: West Nile Virus, Equine Protozoal Encephalomyelitis.

We wish you and your horse the very best of health - and of course "The Best Ride Ever" !