Vaccinations are necessary to protect your horse from serious and in some cases life-threatening infectious diseases. They may also be necessary should you wish to compete with your horse or stable it on other people’s yards. Vaccinations are a useful opportunity to give your horse an annual health check, discuss any concerns you may have and carry out routine dental treatment. If your horse is kept on a yard it is often possible to divide the cost of the visit between several owners.
The two main diseases that horses are vaccinated against in the U.K. are tetanus and equine influenza (flu). Increasingly, young horses and pregnant mares are vaccinated against equine herpes virus (EHV).
Tetanus (lockjaw) is a life-threatening neuro-muscular disease caused by toxins from the soil bacterium clostridium tetani. The bacterium gains entry through a wound or even a foot abscess. Vaccination against tetanus is not expensive and all horses should be vaccinated against this distressing disease.
Equine influenza (flu) is a highly contagious viral respiratory disease causing fever, coughing and severe loss of performance. For racing and official competitions flu vaccinations must be carried out within strict time limits.
Equine herpes virus (EHV) causes respiratory disease (especially in young horses) and can cause abortion in pregnant mares.
To discuss any of these services in more detail please ring 028 86765765 to speak to one of our Equine vets.
This can be given from 3 months of age in foals born to mares which do not have a highly immunised status, or from 6 months of age to foals born to mares which have received two or more tetanus vaccines in the last year or within the last trimester of pregnancy.
The vaccine course consists of two injections 4-6 weeks apart and a third injection one year later. Thereafter booster vaccinations should be given every two years as immunity will last for last for two years.
We recommend that pregnant mares receive a tetanus booster in the last trimester of pregnancy approximately one month before their due date to ensure that the foal receives tetanus antibodies in the colostrum.
This is often combined with tetanus protection and is given from 5-6 months of age depending on the immune status of the foal. The first injection is followed by a second injection 4-6 weeks later and a third injection 6 months later. Thereafter booster vaccinations must be given annually (not more than one calendar year to comply with Jockey Club Rules) beginning with a flu booster and alternating with flu and tetanus combined. Vaccinated horses should not be given any hard work for one day following their vaccination – a gentle hack is fine. The vaccine is safe to use in pregnant mares.
Equine Herpes Virus (EHV) Vaccinations
This can be given from 5 months of age. For vaccination against respiratory disease due to equine herpes virus two vaccinations 4-6 weeks are given. This can be done at the same time as flu and tetanus vaccination. However, unlike flu and tetanus vaccination an EHV booster is required every 6 months.
Pregnant mares should be vaccinated during the 5th, 7th and 9th months of pregnancy to prevent EHV abortion.
We must emphasise that owners, not ourselves, are responsible for ensuring that their horse’s vaccinations are completed within the time frames set by their sport’s governing bodies.
Should you have any concerns about the vaccine status of your horse or need any other advice about vaccination programmes please feel free to discuss it with one of our equine vets.