Bob Judd, DVM, DABVP (Equine Medicine), DABVP (Canine and Feline Practice)
If you didn’t vaccinate your horse this spring or summer, you still can.
All adult horses are recommended to have the core vaccines every year. Core vaccines are encephalitis and West Nile virus, rabies, and tetanus.
These diseases can affect an individual horse and are not developed by being around other horses. Even if your horse is alone on 1000 acres, these vaccines need to be given every year.
Encephalitis and West Nile are viral infections transmitted by mosquitoes. Every horse is susceptible to these illnesses as exposure to another horse is not needed to get them.
Rabies is passed to horses from wild animals. Tetanus can be caused by your horse stepping on a nail or other sharp object and horses are very susceptible to tetanus.
If you haul your horse anywhere or board at a facility with other horses that come and go, your horse should receive herpes virus vaccine, influenza vaccine, and strangles vaccine. These illnesses are not only spread by horse-to-horse contact but can be spread by objects that are used on more than one horse, like a twitch or a brush.
Your horse’s friend who lives across the fence might have been exposed to outside horses. This is another situation in which respiratory vaccines would be recommended.
Dr. Elizabeth Davis DVM, Ph.D., Dipl. ACVIM, Kansas State University, says in the publication The Horse that although possible, there is no evidence that overvaccination occurs in horses. By vaccinating, you are helping to protect your horse from diseases, some of which are deadly.
Never vaccinate a sick horse. Ask your veterinarian if your horse is safe to vaccinate if you’re not sure.